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This month, National Trading Standards seized almost £250,000 worth of dangerous electrical goods, bound for UK homes in the run up to Christmas. It’s a clear warning to be wary of fake and counterfeit goods as we look for bargains online and in store.

Many of the items identified and destroyed by Trading Standards are things that we will be buying as gifts or decorations including tablets, laptop chargers, disco lights, satnavs, electric shavers, UV gel nail dryers, walkie-talkies and Christmas lights. The items were too dangerous for use with battery problems, unsafe cabling and some without fuses. The products can overheat and even catch fire.

To buy or not to buy

Though it’s great to hunt down a bargain, it’s vital to be vigilant when shopping for goods away from the high street or from official retailers online. The rule of thumb is if it looks too good to be true, then it likely it is to be a poorly-made copy of the official product you’re after.

• Be wary of extreme bargains. If prices are incredibly low, especially for a product that’s popular or sought after, ask yourself why?

• Criminals produce items in demand. Criminals are quick to spot goods in demand, such as this years “must have” toys. They make cheap and often dangerous copies to fill the gap. Avoid panic buying, read reviews and do common sense checks.

• Scour websites carefully. Learn how to spot fake websites and online scams. If you notice a site or an independent sellers page with lots of grammar and spelling mistakes, or their company’s head office is based abroad but claims to be based in the UK, be very cautious. If they have a landline, give it a call. You should also take look at the web address – if there’s an “s” at the end of “http” in the address, or a padlock symbol in the task bar it means the site is more secure. Search around to find independent customer reviews too.

Get guarantees and warranties from well-known stores

Buying from a well-known retailer can sometimes cost more, but there are advantages to balance this. You’ll get manufacturer guarantees, or the option of a refund if you change your mind within 14 days of purchase. Similarly, if the item is faulty or breaks within the first 12 months, you can get a refund or replacement with proof of purchase.

Some stores, such as John Lewis, offer an extended warranty on electrical goods. You can also take out extra cover lasting up to 5 years for an additional cost.

Plan ahead for Christmas

Look out for offers and be patient in the lead up to Christmas. You can be sure to find many price wars between competing stores as the big day approaches. Look at our guide to planning a stress free Christmas and how to budget for the most wanted toys this year.

On Friday November 25th we’ll be rounding up a selection of the best Black Friday deals for you as well. This way you’ll save money and avoid the unsafe fakes.

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