Don’t give the scammers an early Christmas present!

It’s not only Santa who is busy at Christmas. Sadly, it’s also high season for scammers looking to take advantage of your festive goodwill and part you from your cash using every trick in the Christmas con artist’s playbook.

Listing every conceivable scam out there would take up pages and feel overwhelming, so instead we have focused on five of the most common ruses designed to catch you out and a few tips on how to avoid falling for them.

1 – Emails, text messages and suspicious links
Pay close attention to website links in emails, text messages, or online ads. Especially those which seem to have appeared out of the blue.

You can sometimes verify the legitimacy of the sender by carefully checking the actual email address rather than the one scammers have craftily displayed. Sometimes you can see the real address simply by hovering your cursor over it or you can copy and paste the email address to reveal the true sender. If what looks like it’s from BT is actually from [email protected] for example, hit delete.

Be cautious of links leading to unfamiliar URLs (website addresses). A few years ago, a scam appeared on WhatsApp which looked to be related to a Cadbury’s chocolate giveaway. Unfortunately, the link took users to a Russian URL using a convincing looking survey to collect personal data and even encouraged users to sign up their friends. If you can’t confirm the communication is legitimate, don’t risk it.

2 – Browser extensions
During the holiday season, there is a rise in online money-saving offers requiring the installation of a browser extension. Browser extensions are add-on pieces of software which give your web browser, like Edge or Chrome for example, additional functionality such as comparing prices for items you may be looking to buy and seeking out discount codes. Be careful however as scammers develop what look like extensions to gather phishing data. Avoid installing new browser extensions during Christmas; if necessary, research their legitimacy on platforms like Trustpilot and check for customer reviews.

3 – Billing scams
Beware of messages claiming to be from a company or even governmental agency or authority you’ve made a purchase from, stating that your payment didn’t go through and urging you to update your payment information urgently. If you run a small business these can easily catch you out. Verify the legitimacy of these messages by checking the email address and cross referencing it with a Google search. If you still need more reassurance, call the company yourself. Don’t be pressured into making a bad snap decision by threats of missed amazing deals or undelivered orders.

4 – Unfamiliar websites and the padlock icon
Fraudsters often create fake websites offering unrealistically low prices to lure customers into providing personal and bank details. The sites can look extremely convincing, but the offers are usually just a bit too good to be true. Many people look for the little padlock icon in the web address bar and assume that gives an indication of trustworthiness. It doesn’t! The padlock icon merely indicates whether the data that has passed between the website and the browser is encrypted. It was created before HTTPS, a more secure method of transferring data, became the norm so the padlock icon is now largely redundant. Even a very basic phishing site is likely to have the padlock icon on it. Do your own research using Google and TrustPilot before making a purchase you may later regret.

5 – Verification code scams
Hackers and criminals use this scam to bypass two-factor authentication designed to protect your data. Scammers posing as your bank or a company you recently purchased from claim you need to confirm a verification code for a transaction. Be careful, as scammers may already have your login details and use the verification code to gain more access to your data or compromise your customer account. A bank will never ask for your code over the phone in the same way they wouldn’t ask for your full password, so if this happens take it as a major red flag. If in doubt, contact your bank or the company directly to check if the request is genuine.

You can find more security tips for safer online banking on our website –

Other useful websites include:

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which has some useful advice on how to spot phishing attempts:

Take Five – To Stop Fraud is another great resource created by UK Finance giving straightforward and impartial advice on how to spot and avoid a variety of financial frauds and scams:

If you ever feel that your UTB account details may have been compromised, do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7190 5555 or email [email protected]

The festive season is a time for fun and celebration. By taking a few simple steps you can prevent online criminals from helping themselves to your cash and instead ensure you and your loved ones enjoy the Christmas you deserve.