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Christmas is a time of giving and this year we want to make sure that you don't give criminals an easy ride. Whether you are buying your gifts online or the high street, our advice below will help keep your Christmas merry and bright.

 

Online Shopping

77% of UK Internet users made a purchase online in 2015 (We Are Social, 2016) and this year many will use the internet to buy more than half of their Christmas presents. Unfortunately, cyber-criminals take advantage of this and set up fake websites to advertise counterfeit goods that are poor quality, unsafe or items that will never be delivered.

Top tips to protect yourself

• If possible use online retailers/brands you are aware of and trust. For major brands always go to the official website to find a list of authorised sellers.

• Check the delivery, insurance, warranty and returns policy.

• Be especially careful when purchasing expensive items.

• Make sure you have adequate anti-virus software that will enable your computer to flag any untrustworthy sites.

Auction Fraud

Many people will use the festive period as an opportunity to find their ideal partner and may sign up to an online site such as Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Match, etc. Whilst the majority of people on these sites are genuine, fraudsters also use the sites to try and win your affection and then coerce you into sending money, usually claiming they need funds to visit you or help out with a family emergency.

Top tips to protect yourself

•   Be selective and careful with what personal information you disclose when chatting

•   Don't send money or give payment card details to anyone you don’t know and trust

•   Trust your instincts - if something doesn't feel right, take steps to protect yourself

•   If you do meet up with someone you've met online, make sure you're aware of the Ask for Angela scheme - check our [Online Dating] page for more information on this and other tips.

Protect your Presents

Did you know you can register your gadgets at www.immobilise.com?

This means if they're recovered after being lost or stolen, they can be reunited with you. It's a free service and over 34 million items have been registered already.

Christmas e-cards (Malware / Phishing risks)

Many people now send Christmas cards via email and many of these are genuine. However, this presents an opportunity for cyber-criminals to create their own versions which can contain malicious software (malware) which will embed itself in your computer or device. This malware can then be used to collect personal data, financial information, passwords and usernames which can then be used to commit fraud.

Top tips to protect yourself

•   If you receive an anonymous e-card, better to play it safe and delete the email as it could be infected.

•   Use a reputable anti-virus product on your electronic device, making sure it is regularly updated and always turned on.

Gaming

With lots of new games being released and purchased during the festive period, it is important that people, young people and parents in particular, understand the risks associated with gaming online.

•   Stranger Danger

Not everyone who games online is who they say they are and there could be many reasons why they choose to hide or falsify their identity. Make sure young and vulnerable people in particular are aware of this and that someone being familiar because they've gamed with them for some time does not mean that person is not a potential threat.

•   Grooming and Exploitation

Unfortunately, many criminals use gaming platforms to exploit and groom their victims. This could be for the purpose of Child Sexual Exploitation, radicalisation, criminality and more. The risks increase when victims are encouraged to "boost" or cheat by playing on private servers with modified versions of games.

•   Downloadable Content / Add-Ons

Gaming online can be very expensive with lots of games now having Downloadable Content (DLC) and / or add-on's. Be very careful when adding your payment information to your, or your child's, gaming account.

Ticketing Fraud (Fake / Non-existent tickets)

Christmas is a time for creating memories and giving others the opportunities to create more. Tickets to things like concerts or sporting events allow them to do just that. However, there are many bogus websites selling fake tickets or tickets that never existed.

Top tips to protect yourself

•    Only buy tickets from reputable websites

•    Avoid entering your bank or credit card details on public or shared computers

•    Ensure you have good, up to date anti-virus software on your computers and devices

Dating and Romance Fraud

Many people will use the festive period as an opportunity to find their ideal partner and may sign up to an online site such as Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Match, etc. Whilst the majority of people on these sites are genuine, fraudsters also use the sites to try and win your affection and then coerce you into sending money, usually claiming they need funds to visit you or help out with a family emergency.

Top tips to protect yourself

•    Be selective and careful with what personal information you disclose when chatting

•    Don't send money or give payment card details to anyone you don’t know and trust

•    Trust your instincts - if something doesn't feel right, take steps to protect yourself

•    If you do meet up with someone you've met online, make sure you're aware of the Ask for Angela scheme - check our Online Dating page for more information on this and other tips.

Charity Donations

Charities often seek donations during the festive period. Most appeals and collections are genuine but unfortunately, fraudsters also seek to exploit individual's charitable nature and steal donations, especially those made online.

 Top tips to protect yourself

•    Visit the charity's website via a web browser rather than clicking on any links

•    Take Five and verify - before you donate, check the website you're on is the legitimate site, that it is secure (https) and look for the padlock symbol

•    Do not respond to requests to donate through any money transfer companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram

•    If you are worried, contact the charity via trusted means, they will be able to advise you on other ways you can donate

Grandparent Fraud / Stranded Relative Fraud

Christmas is a time when many families travel to be together. Unfortunately, fraudsters know this and take advantage. The victim of this type of scam usually receives an email or text message, designed to look like it has come from a relative or friend or even sent from their account which has been compromised. The email usually explains that the relative or friend is stranded in a foreign country and now needs funds sent to him, usually via a Western Union or MoneyGram type service, to get home, pay hospital bills, be released from jail or pay a debt. The fraudster will often come up with a reason or excuse why the relative or friend who is supposedly stranded cannot be contacted, such as their phone being stolen or lost.

 Top tips to protect yourself

•    Take Five and verify - contact the relative or friend if you can to check if they are truly stranded, it's very likely they're not!

•    If you cannot contact them, look for hallmarks that any email / text you have received may not be genuine - are there spelling mistakes or is the grammar not quite right, have they not used your name or used a name they wouldn't normally call you by, does their story sound a little too far-fetched?

Gloucestershire Constabulary's Safer Cyber Twitter feed


 

Page last updated: 13 November 2017