Last year I fell for a scam when I was doing my Christmas shopping. The scam was clever. I thought I was getting a good deal but didn’t realise I was being scammed until it was too late. How can I avoid the same thing happening again this year?

Scammers’ tactics become more sophisticated every year, making scams tricky to recognise, but there are things you can look out for.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, tickets to an event that are much cheaper than they’re being sold elsewhere, or a holiday that’s a lot less than you’d expect to pay.

Be wary of people contacting you out of the blue on social media sites or via text and email offering an item for sale or deal on something.

Do your research. If you’re buying from a website you haven’t used before, spend a few minutes researching it. A good place to start is finding a website’s terms and conditions. You should also look up the company’s address, this can normally be found in the website’s ‘contact us’ section and should have a street name, not just a post office box. If it’s a registered UK company you can check its details on the Companies House website.

Check to see what people have said about the company. It’s worth looking at different review websites to see other people’s feedback – don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website.

Scammers will often ask you to pay in an unusual way, or very quickly. For example, you’re asked to send money through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union or pay via vouchers.

Remember never give away your personal information like a password or PIN and never click on or download anything you don’t trust.

To find out about scams across the country, you can sign up to the Trading Standards email alert on their website.

If you’ve been scammed, there are organisations you should report the scam to.

If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours, speak to your bank and the police. You should also contact the police if the scammer is in your area or you feel unsafe. You can also report the scam to Citizens Advice and Action Fraud.

Don’t feel embarrassed about reporting a scam – scammers are clever and it can happen to anyone.

Reporting a scam helps track down and stop scammers, helping to prevent it from happening to others too.

If you need further support, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

The advice provided in this advice column was published 30 November 2022. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit our Citizens Advice public site.


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