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What’s not to love about Christmas? Hopefully you’ll have a chance to get a well-deserved rest, get to spend some time with your loved ones, receive gifts (if you’ve been good, of course!) and indulge in some delicious food. Although it may be a lot of people’s favourite time of year, fraudsters enjoy the festive season for a very different reason.

New figures from Action Fraud reveal that last Christmas a loss of nearly £16.5 million was reported by individuals and business owners at the hands of online fraudsters. This was a big increase from two years ago when the total financial loss at Christmas was just over £9.5 million.

‘You better watch out’

The report showed that last year, the most common time for fraudsters to target their victims was on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But it wasn’t just the start of the spending season that fraudsters took advantage of – as the report showed that a number of people were also tricked by scammers between 20th and 23rd December.

Mobile phones were the most common item sold by fraudsters, with most people falling for a scam when they were trying to get a bargain on the most popular models of smartphones. Other goods that people were defrauded on include footwear, clothing, gaming consoles and computers.

To make sure you’re not a victim of conmen this Christmas, we’ll take you through some of the key areas you need to think about.

Don’t drop the ball

Let’s face it, it’s not hard to lose your concentration around Christmas time and fraudsters know that. So make sure you’re extra vigilant when making purchases online, and if you come across something that seems like it’s selling for too low a price, it probably is.

It goes without saying that you should only buy from reputable sites and always check that payment pages are secure before putting in your card details. A secure payment page should always have ‘https’ in the address bar and a padlock symbol when inputting your details.

Be smart about how you pay

Whenever you’re buying anything that costs more than £100 you could receive extra protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you pay with your credit card. This will protect you on any purchases that you make that don’t arrive or are faulty when they do.

If you use auction sites like eBay or Gumtree at this time of year, make sure to use safe payment methods like PayPal. PayPal in particular offers Buyer Protection which (much like Section 75) means that if an item you’ve bought online doesn’t arrive or match the seller’s description, you’ll be reimbursed for the full amount – be sure to read the rules for how the protection works to ensure that you are covered.

Just remember, you should never send money via bank transfer to someone that you don’t know.

Buying concert tickets

Action Fraud recently revealed that in the six months to the end of October, customers were duped out of nearly £1.3 million due to ticketing fraud. If you’re planning on buying a loved one concert or theatre tickets this Christmas, make sure you take note of the tips in our guide to avoid being scammed.

Secure your computer

When you make purchases online, make sure that you always use a secure Wi-Fi connection. At home, check the security settings on your router and avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots while out and about as these networks can be easily compromised.

Make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus software on your computer as well. There are a number of free ones that you can download if you don’t already have one, including AVG, Avast and Panda Security.

Scam emails and letters

Fraudsters know that around Christmas time, you can be inundated with a variety of festive correspondence, mostly in the form of emails. To make sure you’re not fooled by an email that you receive, avoid opening any attachments or click on any links on an email that you weren’t expecting or that you’re unfamiliar with the sender.

The same goes for any calls, texts or posts that you receive – think carefully about the information you’re being asked to give out and don’t feel pressured into handing this over.

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