Whether it’s Christmas, a pandemic or just your average day, it’s important to shop safely and avoid falling victim to scams. Like presents, scams come in many shapes and sizes: cold-calling, rogue trading, postal scams and e-crime. Scammers take advantage of our desire to find a bargain and capitalise on our trustful nature. They are also good at spotting those who are potentially vulnerable.

Due to covid-19, we’ve seen an increase in scams looking to take advantage of the financial hardship and loneliness many people have experienced. Social isolation and pressure on our mental health and wellbeing has made us more vulnerable to falling victim and making an unwise decision. Similarly, people’s fear has also been exploited. So whether you’re browsing online, answering the front door or reading through your post, be mindful. If in doubt, always check it out.

Examples of covid-19 scams

According to the National Scams Team, some of the tactics criminals are using to exploit the pandemic include:

  • Doorstep callers who pray on vulnerable people by offering to pick up essential supplies. They take the money and then don’t return with the items
  • Rogue traders that offer to clean driveways/doorways to help prevent the spread of the virus
  • Refund scams looking to “reimburse” those who have had to cancel trips due to covid-19
  • Fake covid-19 resources online that download malware onto your device and steal data
  • Counterfeit goods such as fake hand sanitiser and covid-19 swabbing kits (sold by doorstep callers and also online)
  • Donation scams were circulating, claiming they were raising money to help fund a vaccine

Tips to protect yourself and avoid scams

Whether you’re trying to shop safely this Christmas or avoid scams all year-round, we’ve got some top tips to help protect you.

  • Become a Friend Against Scams by completing the online training session
  • Be cautious of websites offering big discounts, and make sure you’re buying from the retailer’s official website. Always shop safely
  • Trust your gut instinct. If it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is and isn’t worth the risk
  • Do you research before you buy. Look for reviews and search the company on .gov to see if it’s a legitimate business
  • Don’t click links, instead always look up the website through the search engine
  • Paying via PayPal or by debit/credit card gives your payment extra protection
  • Always use strong passwords. Try using 3 random words to create a long and unique password that would be hard to guess. Avoid pets names and birthdays.

For more advice and support on scams contact Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 

If you and struggling and need support and advice due to the pandemic, find out more about our community hubs.