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Trading Standards team warns shoppers not to fall for seasonal scams

Person entering bank details on laptop

As we enter the Christmas period shoppers will be on the lookout for the lowest prices and the best deals – but Cornwall’s Trading Standards team is warning that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Officers have highlighted some of the most common scams shoppers should look out for during the holiday season. They include:

  • Delivery Scams – You receive an email or text, claiming that your courier has been unable to deliver a parcel. You will be prompted to click a link, where you may be asked to pay a small delivery charge. Not only is this designed to take you money, but it’s also designed to capture your personal details, which can be sold to other scammers. With the number of parcels that customers might be expecting to be delivered at this time of year, it is easy to get caught out.
  • Copy-cat or fake websites – This is increasingly common scam, where a website is created to either mirror a genuine retailer’s site or simply offers branded popular goods at much lower prices. In these cases, consumers will pay, but goods will never be delivered. Scammers are sophisticated and in the case of fake websites, it is common for them to have created a bogus limited company months in advance, leaving consumers with a false sense that the business is legitimate.
  • Poor quality or unsafe goods – with a global online marketplace it is easy to source low price goods and toys from online retailers that are shipped directly to you home from manufacturers outside of the UK. Often these items will not have been subjected to the rigorous safety standards and checks of items that are imported by established importers and retailers in the UK. Electrical safety of electronic goods is one area of particular concern, as we’ve seen serious fires caused by unsafe products. Before ordering, think carefully about the safety risks that might go along with these items, particularly if they are toys.
  • In terms of general shopping advice, there are a couple of things to look out for:
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday - Deals can seem very tempting, with claims about massive price reductions, but it’s important to wary. Retailers will sometimes increase prices for popular goods in the period leading up to the sales, only to reduce them once Black Friday or Cyber Monday comes around. This is a common tactic used to avoid pricing rules. it’s important to shop around and not just to focus on the saving being offer.
  • Claiming goods are in stock when they’re not – Stocks of popular items can run low at this time of year. Some online retailers may not be upfront about whether the goods are really in stock, ready for dispatch. They will allow you to add the item to the basket and pay, only for the customer to realise later that the goods won’t be delivered for many weeks. In some cases, you might even pay extra for quick delivery – but the terms and conditions won’t apply until the goods are back in stock. If you need the goods urgently It’s important to make as many checks as possible and even contact the retailer before placing the order.

Cllr Martyn Alvey, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “This time of year creates financial pressure for many households, and as we all try and find that perfect gift at the right price scammers are seizing the opportunity to exploit shoppers and those waiting for deliveries.

“If you think you’ve been caught out by any of these kinds of scams it is important to contact your bank or credit card provider straight away. Many banks, building societies and payment providers now offer fraud protection and may be able to refund your money. They will also be able to monitor your account for any suspicious activity.”

If consumers need help and advice on their consumer rights or want to report a scam or dangerous product - they can contact Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Fraud can also be reported to Action Fraud 0300 123 2040

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