Carmarthenshire Trading Standards issue advice on Christmas scams

Ti’s the season of giving, but don’t give scammers an early Christmas present. Christmas is a time when it’s so easy to get distracted – presents to buy, family and friends to feed.

With so much going on, it’s easy to fall for a scam and scammers know that all too well, meaning the holiday season is a prime opportunity for them.

Here are some scams to look out for this Christmas and some useful tips to protect you and your loved ones.

Telephone scammers

Carmarthenshire County Council Trading Standards is cracking down on telephone scammers this festive season.

Trading Standards have blocked over 178,000 nuisance and scam calls made to vulnerable residents, since the trueCall nuisance call blocking project began in Carmarthenshire.

You can help your loved ones get some peace this Christmas by encouraging and supporting them to apply for a free trueCall nuisance call blocker to prevent telephone scammers and nuisance callers getting through. Apply now at Nuisance and Scam Telephone Calls (gov.wales)

Social media scams

Social media is popular tool for scammers. According to the regulator Ofcom, around nine in 10 people have experienced an online scam, with nearly a quarter having first encountered the scam on social media.

These scams are usually designed to appear genuine, they may come in the form of a phoney friend or new romance, a fake business flogging exclusive offers and investments, or impersonate a trusted brand using official logos.

Scammers will often pretend to be from legitimate sources, offering an enticing incentive to click through to a ‘too good to be true’ deal. They trick the victim into handing over personal information either through private messaging or by linking off to a dodgy website.

Scammers often pretend to be advertisers on social media. They create social media accounts and pay to have their scam message advertised. They are relying on the understanding that your used to seeing and trusting offers from genuine advertisers on social media. Stay vigilant when you see new companies, organisations or brands pop up on your feed. You should also be suspicious if you see a new social media account advertising for a company you know well. It may be a scammer pretending to be a new branch or new account for that brand.

WhatsApp messages

The Trading Standards team have seen an increasing number of scams using the messaging app, WhatsApp.

They may impersonate a loved one, such as the ‘help a friend’ scam’, share fake job offers or promote deals and competitions that are too good to be true.

The promotional message scam, for example, is sent straight to the phone of a victim, calling on the recipient to click the link in order to claim their prize. Clicking on the link will often lead you to a website survey that will require you to fill in your personal information before the ‘prize’ is sent to you.

When the survey is completed, sometimes you may be asked to select WhatsApp friends to share the deal with. The promotional message and link will then be sent to all of those contacts selected in a group chat message, continuing the spread of the scam.

Shopping and online auction sites

Fraudsters will advertise an item for sale frequently at a bargain price compared to other listings of a similar type. They may have pictures of the item, so it appears to be a genuine sale. The scammer my encourage buyers to move away to complete the transaction. They may also insist that the buyer pay via a bank transfer, ensuring that you lose any protection you could have from using third party payment services such as PayPal and Apple Pay. Once payment is made the ‘seller’ won’t send the item, or if you request to collect the item they may make excuses as to why you can’t collect or give you a fake address.

Ticketing Fraud

Most event tickets are sold via reputable websites operated by promoters, the event venue or the official agents. Many tickets are offered for sale on secondary resale sites. Fraudsters set up fake ticket sales websites or use social media to sell tickets they do not have. Once a payment is made you will either not receive the tickets or the tickets you receive will be fake or non-transferable.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability, Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen said: “Sadly there are some people out there that seek to deceive and steal honest and trustworthy residents from their hard earned money.

“I would urge everybody to heed the advise of our Trading Standards team and be extra vigilant this Christmas of cyber and telephone scammers.”

If you have experienced any of these scams, please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline 0808 223 11 33or visit their website www.citizensadvice.org.uk