Christmas crimes: how to stay safe this festive season

In the season of goodwill we're not always as vigilant as we could be, leaving us open to scams, theft and more Christmas calamities.

Christmas is a time of merriment and cheer, but not everyone is so full of the festive spirit. It’s also a busy time for criminals who want to take your cash and valuables.

Look out for these sneaky tactics from Scrooges who want to ruin your Christmas.

‘I’ll just leave it to defrost for a minute’

It seems harmless enough – you’ll leave the car on to warm up while you pop into the house and fetch your gloves.

But this gives thieves an ideal opportunity to creep in and knick your car.

Insurers expect ‘a duty of care’ on the car owner’s part so it will probably be seen as your fault for leaving it alone and the Financial Ombudsman is likely to side with them.

Even leaving your car unlocked on private land could invalidate your insurance.

24 ways to cut your car insurance premiums

Leaving Santa’s sleigh full of presents

Getting all of your Christmas shopping done in one go feels great, but it’ll leave a mighty pile of valuables in your car. If you leave them unattended, burglars could be tempted to strike.

To avoid it, always lock your shopping bags in the boot of the car and never leave bags on seats or anywhere in sight.

Try and leave buying the higher-value gift buying until the end of your shop so there’s less opportunity for it to be stolen.

When you park, go for as well-lit and as public a place as you can, preferably near a CCTV camera. And don’t forget to reset that car alarm before you head back to the shops.

Unopened boxes on the doorstep

Be careful what you do with that HD TV box after Christmas. Leaving it in the front garden or poking out of the recycling bin won’t make your neighbours jealous, but it will tell burglars that you have a swanky new flat screen telly in the house. 

Make sure you update your contents insurance after Crimbo too to account for your festive haul.

Read more: my home insurer punished my loyalty with a £700 penalty

Shopping scams when you’re online…

The internet is plagued with festive scams. It could be fake e-tailers, shipping notifications for something you didn’t order or just plain dodgy sellers.

Be extra vigilant when shopping on the web, and if anything seems unusual, it’s best avoided.

Read Online Christmas shopping: how to avoid fraud to find out more.

…and out and about

We’d like to think we’re smarter than the scammers but in truth, that’s not often the case.

Enticing prices can make people hand over their details.  Santander sent The Real Hustle’s Paul Wilson to a shopping centre, operating under the crafty name of CAMS (anagram of scam) to try and harvest shoppers’ bank details. He got 85% of them. Take a look:

Source: YouTube / Santander UK

Bad tidings they bring

Watch your email inbox around the Christmas period.

As well as fraudulent sales, fake receipts and all manner of shady attachment, you’ve got Christmas e-card fraud to watch out for too.

Scammers might try and trick you into downloading malware onto your computer, giving them the opportunity to steal your personal and financial data.

Keep your anti-virus up-to-date on all of your devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Read more about the scariest online scams and hacks from this year.

Dodgy toys

Counterfeit toys become more popular around Christmas time as parents scramble for the cheapest deal they can find. But it’s a bad idea to take a risk for a tiny price tag.

Electrical toys might not meet safety standards and could catch fire like some of the questionable 'Segways' which were sold last Christmas.

A third of us have bought fake electrical goods online, putting us at risk of electric shocks and even fires.

It’s best to shop at reputable retailers to ensure that the toy that you’re buying is safe.

A holiday romance gone wrong

Lonely hearts are especially vulnerable around the festive season.

Statistically, if you’re a single woman aged 45-65 who’s a bit more affluent, you’re a key target.

It tends to be more trusting and sympathetic people who are more commonly hit by the scams.

If your new beau asks a lot of questions, showers you with compliments, doesn’t reveal much about themselves and asks for money or to meet you offline, be suspicious.

Remember to report any scammers to Action Fraud.

Breaking in

Like a sort of reverse Santa, burglars come into your house at Christmas time to swipe gifts and valuables.

To ward them off, leave the hallway light switched on, make sure you keep all the doors and windows locked as well as the front garden gate if you have one.

Winter months are when homes are particularly at risk. This partly down to shorter days and with more people out celebrating merriment, there’s more opportunity for thieves to steal.

For those out of the country for some winter sun, set a timer to switch your lights on and off at regular intervals if you can and ask a neighbour to collect your post while you’re away.

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More on Christmas:

I won't be buying Christmas presents for my kid this year

Best cheap Secret Santa gifts that aren't rubbish!

Christmas shopping mistakes to avoid

How to profit from the Santa rally

 

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