As you’re busy planning for Christmas, the scammers are too, looking to earn some extra cash for Christmas and ruining others in the process. 2017 saw record numbers of scams and millions of pounds lost, but how can we avoid the trap this year? Well, arming yourself and others with information and knowing how to avoid these scams could ensure a merry Christmas after all.

Look-Alike Websites – Many consumers will see an increase in the number of email alerts announcing deals, gifts, and sales. Whilst emails can look legitimate, the links may lead to look-alike websites, designed to trick you into entering private information or, give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto your computer. To protect themselves, consumers should: Review the sender’s address to check if it legitimate. Look for misspellings throughout the email. Hover over links without clicking to see where they reroute and, only enter sensitive information into a website that begins with “https” as the “s” informs you that it’s secure and information entered is encrypted.

Social Media Gift Exchange – Purchasing one gift and receiving several in return may sound like a harmless way to give and receive presents, but this seasonal scam is a pyramid scheme.

Grandparent Scams – Scammers target seniors posing as a grandchild, or other family member, and claim they have been in an accident, arrested, hospitalised or another urgent issue. The circumstance often requires money be sent immediately to resolve. Recipients should: Verify the situation, by calling the family member in question directly. Be wary if you’re asked to wire money or send gift cards in place of making a payment with a credit card.

Temporary Holiday Jobs – Many businesses require a little extra help with the holiday rush and often seek temporary employees, but beware of fraudsters who attempt to glean personal information from applicants. Job seekers trying to avoid this scam should: Apply for to the job in person or by going directly to the retailer’s website (not following links) Be wary of anyone requiring you to hand over personal information over the phone or online before meeting for an interview. Be suspicious of a job that requires you to pay for equipment or software upfront.

Free Gift Cards – Who doesn’t love free stuff, especially around Christmas? Scammers hope to take advantage via phishing emails and pop-up ads offering gift cards. If you come across one of these offers you should not: Open the email, as it can be a phishing attempt but, if you do, don’t click the links. Instead, mark the email as SPAM or JUNK. Dont share any personal information to receive the card, as the scammers will use the information to steal your identity later. Do not click the ad, instead close the app or program you are using and clear your history.

E-Cards – Christmas cards are sent out this time of year and, while some friends and family may be going high-tech by using e-cards, so are scammers. Be wary if you are required to enter personal information to open the card. Avoid opening any suspicious emails, it could contain a virus.

Fake Shipping Notifications – Notifications for deliveries can often be expected throughout the holiday season, as many consumers go online to purchase gifts. However, some of these announcements may be phishing scams. These false notification emails often use a legitimate businesses name and logo to trick you into opening the email and allowing thieves to gain access to personal information and passwords.

Phony Charities – Charities often get a boost during Christmas, as consumers are in the giving spirit but scammers seeking to take advantage can pose as charities or needy individuals soliciting donations.

Letters From Santa – Many legitimate businesses offer personalised letters from Santa, but some copycat scammers are only looking to glean personal information from unsuspecting parents. Be suspicious of unsolicited emails offering special prices or packages for letters from Santa.

Unusual Forms of Payments – When making your purchases, be wary of anyone asking for a strange form of payment, as they often can’t be traced or undone. These may include: Prepaid debit or gift cards, wire transfers and/or payments via third parties.

Travel Scams – Traveling for the holidays can get expensive and bargains may be tempting, but some offers may be scams that end up costing you more, instead of helping you save. Be cautious when it comes to email offers, especially if it is from an unknown sender or company.

Puppy Scams – While a year-round issue, puppy scams hurt families seeking to add a family member to their household. Puppy scams are often difficult to avoid as cute pictures and good deals pull at the heartstrings and wallet.