Christmas gifts: One in eight Brits risk being scammed

·3 min read
A woman wearing a face mask is seen shopping in the popular Christmas market known as Fira de Santa Ll�cia. Many people take advantage of the second non-working day with stores opening, to shop in anticipation for Christmas. Shoppers are seen wearing protective facemasks due to the surge Covid-19 infections. (Photo by Paco Freire / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
An ongoing supply chain issues mean many must-have presents are proving harder to find as the holidays approach. Photo: PA

One in eight Brits have admitted they have rushed into buying items online that could be a “dodgy deal” or “too good to be true” and risk being scammed, new data revealed.

This comes as an ongoing supply chain issues mean many “must-have” presents are proving harder to find as the holidays approach. This has coincided with a boom in online shopping due to a prolonged pandemic.

“People are more tempted than ever to shop on websites they haven’t heard of or turn to private sellers for a bargain, but if they aren’t careful, they could find that scammers become like the grinch that stole their Christmas gifts,” said Ed Fisher, head of financial crime at Nationwide Building Society (NBS.L).

“If shopping online, remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is, and always use a card or secure payment app unless you are totally confident the person is exactly who they claim to be, and the goods are genuine.”

Scammers will often try and lure people with offers of good at heavily discounted prices. Nationwide said customers should always do their research about the website, product and what the standard price of an item is – if something looks too cheap it could well be a scam.

Nationwide’s poll revealed that more than four in ten (42%) are worried about falling victim to a purchase scam and that more than one in ten (11%) have been duped.

The majority of people (60%) try to buy their gifts via websites of well-known retailers. However, nearly a quarter (24%) of shoppers will head to social media or auction sites, like Facebook Marketplace or eBay. A fifth (20%) will opt for lesser-known websites.

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These sites and sellers can appear to offer great deals, but there is always a chance the goods don’t turn out to be what they were promised or don’t turn up at all.

Customers should also be wary of fake versions of genuine sites – the URL should be legitimate with a padlock/https tag which is a sign it is a secure site.

Another “tell-tale sign” of a scam, according to Nationwide, is when a seller asks for payment via electronic faster payment and won’t accept cards or use a secure payment app like PayPal (PYPL).

Legitimate companies and even smaller traders usually offer these options because they offer all parties more protection.

The bank recommends customers always pay with credit and debit cards as these offer protection should the goods not arrive or are not as described, and avoiding bank transfers unless the recipient is known and trusted.

Nearly a third (35%) of Brits say they will never fall victim to purchase scam – suggesting confidence that it won’t happen to them.

This belief is highest amongst younger people, with those aged 16 to 24 around twice as likely to think it won’t happen to them compared to those aged 55 and above.

But Nationwide’s data shows that the highest proportion of purchase scam victims are aged 21 to 30, accounting for more than a quarter (26%) of all cases.

Half (50%) of shoppers say they will use online reviews or testimonials to see what other experiences, good or bad, people have had.

The survey also revealed two-thirds (69%) of people store their details on websites to make it quicker to check out, but this can be a risk should the website get hacked.

Nationwide said it is asking members to authenticate purchases with a push notification sent to their banking app or by inputting a one-time passcode sent to their mobile phone, landline or email, or using their card reader. This adds an extra layer of protection.

It also recommends regularly monitoring transactions on bank accounts, such as by using a banking app.

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