The 12 Frauds of Christmas

Stay Safe

Dated: 23 November 2017 Author: Allan Maund, Head of Counter Fraud Services

The Christmas period is nearly upon us and Black Friday and its online equivalent Cyber Monday, will result in millions of purchases in store and online. Unfortunately, it is also prime time for a fraudster to steal what is yours, from you. Not content with taking your purchases, or money, they could steal your identity.

Fraud is a significant crime in England and Wales, which continues to increase year on year. Official statistics are not released until January 2018; however, current estimates indicate there was approximately four million fraud transactions committed in the previous year, with 57% of these committed on-line. The West and East Midlands has seen the largest growth in identity theft across the country.

It's not all bad news. There are steps you can take to stop yourself being a victim. The 12 frauds of Christmas, provide examples of different types of fraud, these include some of the warning signs and what to do. In all circumstances, if you are concerned you are the victim of fraud you should report it immediately. 

Don’t be a victim.  

The 12 Frauds of Christmas

Our 12 Frauds

1. What is Internet Fraud?
2. What is CyberCrime?
3. What is Identity Fraud?
4. What is Phishing?
5. What is Vishing and Smishing?
6. What is Missed Delivery Fraud?
7. What is Courier Fraud?
8. What is Counterfeit Goods Fraud?
9. What is Charity Fraud?
10. What is Cash Machine Fraud?
11. What is Cheque Fraud?
12. What is Mobile Phone Fraud?


1. What is Internet Fraud?

Internet fraud is a type of fraud which makes use of the internet, and can vary in type and form. For example: e-mail spam, online scams, credit card fraud, ticket fraud, charity fraud, automotive fraud and gambling fraud.

Legal definition: A crime in which the perpetrator develops a scheme using one or more elements of the Internet to deprive a person of property or any interest, estate, or right by a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by providing misleading information or by concealment of information.

What is Internet Fraud

Organised Crime Networks

Organised crime has been quick to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet, particularly the growth in e-commerce and online banking. Specialist criminal groups target individuals, small businesses and large corporate networks to steal personal information in bulk to profit from the compromised data available to them.

Top 10 tips to avoid being a victim of Internet Fraud:

  • If you are going to give remote access to your computer, tablet or smartphone make sure that you know and trust the person.
  • When setting passwords ensure they are long in length, unique, have a mixture of upper and lowercase characters, numbers and special characters.
  • Ensure you regularly update internet security software on computers and a similar app on your mobile devices, and this is kept switched on. Smartphones and tablets can get compromised as much as computers.
  • If you install software on your device, only do so from a trusted source.
  • Firewalls should never be switched off, a firewall should  shield you from scammers getting access to your computer.
  • When buying online or logging to a secure area, make sure you see the padlock symbol in the top right of your browser or check the web address for the https://’ protocol
  • Don’t click on links in emails, posts, tweets of texts – and don’t open attachments – if the source isn’t 100% known and trustworthy, or it seems strange that you’d be receiving them.
  • Keep operating systems and any software up to date to ensure you’re protected
  • Don’t keep financial information on your laptop
  • Report online fraud immediately, don’t delay.

2. What is CyberCrime?

The term cybercrime refers to a variety of crimes carried out online, using the Internet through computers, laptops, tablets, internet-enabled televisions, games consoles and smart phones.

What is CyberCrime

Top 10 tips to avoid being a victim of CyberCrime:

  • Choose, use and protect passwords carefully, and use a different one for every online account.
  • Look after your mobile devices. Don’t leave them unattended in public places, and protect them with a PIN or passcode.
  • Ensure you always have internet security software loaded on computers and a similar app on your mobile devices, and that this is kept updated and switched on. Smartphones and tablets can get compromised as much as computers.
  • Never use Wi-Fi hotspots in places like cafés, bars and hotel rooms for doing anything confidential online. Instead, use 3G or 4G or if it’s for work, a VPN (virtual private network).
  • Never reveal too much personal or financial information in emails, on social networking and dating sites and in person.
  • Always consider that online or on the phone, people aren’t always who they claim to be.
  • Don’t click on links in emails, posts, tweets of texts – and don’t open attachments – if the source isn’t 100% known and trustworthy, or it seems strange that you’d be receiving them.
  • Never pay for anything by direct bank transfer – including goods, services, tickets, travel and holidays – unless it’s to someone you know personally and is reputable.
  • Take your time and think twice, because everything may not be as it seems.
  • Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

3. What is Identity Fraud?

Identity Fraud is best described as the use of a stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception.

The West and East Midlands has the unenviable distinction of having the highest increase of identify fraud in the UK. Your personal information is valuable, act now to protect it.

Did you know Fraudsters can use your identity details to:

  • Open bank accounts.
  • Obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits.
  • Order goods in your name.
  • Take over your existing accounts.
  • Take out mobile phone contracts.
  • Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.

 How will you know?

 The first you know of it may be when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.

 Many victims never establish how their details were obtained.

 You should:

  • Protect your address. Register to vote and opt out of the ‘Edited’ register. This will not affect credit checks, this prevents unsolicited marketing. If you move to a new house, redirect your mail.
  • Protect your bank accounts. Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, letters, or emails who ask you to confirm your personal details, password, PIN or security numbers
  • Protect your phone. Sign up to the Telephone Preference Service. If you have smart phone, install antivirus software.
  • Protect your computer. Keep antivirus and firewall up to date. Do not open up unsolicited links on email. Know how to verify secure websites if you make financial transactions. A padlock symbol will appear on the bottom left or right of the browser bar, not on the website. Some banks offer free antivirus software and browser security, use it.

 If you think that you are a victim of identity fraud - act quickly

 Do not ignore the problem - it might not be you that has ordered some goods or opened an account, but the debt falls to your name and address.

  • Inform the card issuer or other financial institution concerned as soon as possible.
  • Do not destroy the card if it is still in your possession - keep it as evidence.
  • Identify fraudulent transactions as soon as possible. Inform the companies involved if possible.
  • Inform the police if you have lost money directly or can identify a suspect. Card companies pass information relating to transactions on compromised cards directly to the Police.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report from a credit reference agency.

4. What is Phishing?

Phishing is a type of fraud where criminals send emails to trick you into clicking links, opening attachments, or divulging information. The emails are designed to steal information, download viruses or stop your device working properly.

Protect yourself

Don’t assume anyone who’s sent you an email is who they say they are.

If an email asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious.

If the email is from a bank or building society, remember, banks never email you for passwords or any other sensitive information by clicking on a link and visiting a website. If you get a call from someone who claims to be from your bank, don't give away any personal details.

Make sure your spam filter is on your emails. If you find a suspicious email, mark it as spam and delete it to keep out similar emails in future.

If in doubt, check it’s genuine by asking the company itself. Never call numbers or follow links provided in suspicious emails; find the official website or customer support number using a separate browser and search engine.

Spot the signs

Their spelling, grammar, graphic design or image quality is poor quality. They may use odd ‘spe11lings’ or ‘cApiTals’ in the email subject to fool your spam filter.

If they know your email address but not your name, it’ll begin with something like ‘To our valued customer’, or ‘Dear...’ followed by your email address.

They warn you of sudden changes in an account which require action.

The website or email address doesn’t look right; authentic website addresses are usually short and don’t use irrelevant words or phrases. Businesses and organisations don’t use web-based addresses such as Gmail or Yahoo.

Money’s been taken from your account, or there are withdrawals or purchases on your bank statement that you don’t remember making.

5. What is Vishing and Smishing?

Fraudsters will call your landline or mobile, pretending to be from your bank, building society, a government agency or someone you do business with. This is known as vishing (voice + fishing).

Alternatively, they’ll send you a text message that asks you to reply with your personal or banking details, or to call or text a premium-rate number they have created to run up a large bill. This is called smishing (SMS + fishing).

Protect yourself

Don’t assume anyone who’s sent you an email or text message – or has called your phone or left you a voicemail message – is who they say they are.

If a phone call or voicemail, email or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious. Real banks never email you for passwords or any other sensitive information by clicking on a link and visiting a website. If you get a call from someone who claims to be from your bank, don't give away any personal details.

Spot the signs

Money’s been taken from your account, or there are withdrawals or purchases on your bank statement that you don’t remember making.

You receive a significantly higher than normal mobile phone bill.

6. What is Missed Delivery Fraud?

In the summer of 2017 the latest form of Missed Delivery fraud landed on the door mats of residents in the UK.

The latest scam was ‘something for you’ cards designed to look like they came from the Royal Mail. The cards lacked the Royal Mail logo but appeared almost identical to the ‘something for you’ slips that are posted through homes when a Royal Mail delivery wasn’t made. 

The ‘something for you’ cards urged recipients to call a 0208 number, which was not registered to Royal Mail. After ringing the number, the automated message asked for your details and consignment number.

At the time of the scam a spokesperson from the Royal Mail said “The Royal Mail security team is looking into this incident as a matter of urgency. Customers should check delivery cards very carefully to ensure they are genuine, and remain vigilant. Although this card is similar to one of our Something For You cards, the Royal Mail logo is crucially missing”.

This particular fraud can be undertaken by a fraudster copying the layout and design of any courier company, not just the Royal Mail.

Protect yourself

If in doubt, do not call the number provided, give your card details or personal information. If you are able to, verify the delivery company details on line and use the contact numbers provided on their official website.

7. Courier Fraud

As the countdown to Christmas approaches with an increase of purchases by debit and credit card, fraudsters are as eager as ever to obtain your bank cards. The elderly are the most susceptible victims to courier fraud and with most fraud losses, there is no guarantee you will get your money back if you are scammed.

What is courier fraud?

Typically, you will be telephoned by someone pretending to be from your bank or building society and they convince you to tell them your card details over the phone. They will then arrange for a courier to pick up your card to ‘take it away for evidence’ or ‘to have it destroyed’.

Spot the signs

Someone claiming to be from your bank or local police force calls you to tell you about fraudulent activity on your account, but they ask you for personal information or even your PIN to verify who you are.

The caller may well suggest you call them back, so you can be sure they’re genuine, but when you try to return the call there’s no dial tone.

They try to offer you peace of mind by having somebody pick up the card for you to save you the trouble of having to go to your bank or local police station.

Protect yourself

Your bank or the police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your card by courier. Hang up.

If you do need to call your bank back to check, wait at least five minutes; fraudsters may stay on the line after you hang up, you may end up speaking with them or their fellow fraudsters as they keep the line open. Alternatively, use a different phone to call your bank. Use the phone number on the reverse of your card or if you can check on your bank’s website.

Do not rely on caller ID displayed on your phone as means of verification. Fraudsters have the technology to replicate authentic numbers on caller displays.

Your card is yours – don’t let a stranger take it off you.

If you’ve given your bank details over the phone or handed your card to a courier, call your bank straight away to cancel the card. 

8. What is Counterfeit Goods Fraud?

Counterfeit goods fraud typically occurs where any product such as designer clothes, accessories, electricals or cosmetics are fake, but sold as authentic.

They’re presented using the intellectual property of a well-known brand, so the seller can make a large profit, even though to you it might look like a bargain.

Protect yourself

Check the quality and labels first. It’s easy to spot a fake as their labels have spelling mistakes or other distinguishing marks.

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a great deal.

Get the trader to tell you if they provide an after-sales service, warranty or guarantee. Most rogue traders don’t.

Spot the signs

You’ve bought an item and found it’s not made by the brand it claims to be from.

 It’s poor quality, which might make the product unusable or even unsafe.

Many counterfeit goods are sold on-line, at car boot sales, pubs, markets or fairs. This makes it difficult to trace the seller once you’ve bought.

How it happens

Counterfeit goods include fake clothes, bags, accessories and perfumes that imitate recognised brands, as well as poor-quality pirated copies of DVDs, CDs and computer games. They can be sold at markets, in pubs or door-to-door. Counterfeits can also be found at online auctions and web marketplaces, where you have no way of checking whether the products are genuine until you’ve paid and had them delivered.

If you buy something that isn’t as described, or isn’t satisfactory quality, you have statutory rights. This means you should be entitled to a refund or an exchange of goods. However, counterfeit sellers aren’t easy to track down.

If you buy counterfeit goods, you’re helping the trader to break the law. The money you’ve spent ends up funding organised crime such as drug dealing. You’re also contributing to job losses because genuine manufacturers are unable to match prices charged by rogue traders. Worst of all, you’re putting yourself at risk: some counterfeits can be dangerous to use and in some cases, are made using toxic substances.

9. What is Charity Fraud?

Charity fraud is typically where charity collectors prey on your sympathy by asking you to donate to a worthy cause.

Protect yourself

  • Charities always need to be registered and have a license if they’re collecting in a public place. Check they’re authentic with the Charity Commission.
  • If the charity is genuine, check the collection is authorised, too. Call the charity directly or look them up using a phone book or a website (don’t accept websites or numbers provided by a collector).
  • If in doubt, tell the collector you’ll donate directly to the charity yourself.

Spot the signs

  • Their promotional material or website is badly written or has spelling mistakes.
  • The collector is aggressive or intimidating, or uses excuses to explain why their collection is legitimate, such as showing fake ID or falsified documents.
  • They’re using topical events, such as a natural disaster, to make it look like their charity has been created only recently in response.

How it happens

  • A fraudster will either pose as a collector for a charity they’ve made up, or they misuse the name of a genuine, often well-known, charity. They may be collecting sponsorship money for an event that they won't take part in or doesn't even exist. In any of these cases, the money you donate doesn’t go to charity; the fraudsters keep it for themselves.
  • You may be given the address of a fake website, where the fraudsters record your credit or bank account details when you go to a donation page.
  • Alternatively, you may be asked to call a phone number. It could be a premium rate number, taking even more of your money on top of your donation.
  • If you’re asked to donate clothing or household items, fraudsters sell them on but keep the money rather than giving it to people in need.

10. What is Cash Machine Fraud?

This is when your credit or debit card, or the card’s information, is taken by fraudsters when you use a cash machine or ATM.

Protect yourself

  • Check the cash machine every time. Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN and don’t make it obvious which buttons you’re pressing.
  • Look around you. If someone’s standing too close, get your card back without withdrawing any money and walk away.
  • Your safety is the most important thing. Don’t approach anyone you think has been acting suspiciously and if you find loose parts on the machine don’t take them away with you.

Spot the signs 

  • You find a wobbly or bulky part that doesn’t seem to belong with the machine, such as a cover over the card slot or a loose keypad.
  • Purchases and withdrawals start appearing on your account that you don’t remember making.
  • Some cash machines are built entirely by fraudsters. Be cautious using a ‘standalone’ machine, rather than a ‘hole in the wall’, which is embedded in the front of a building such as a bank.

How it happens

  • Fraudsters may attach a skimmer to the card slot. This is a small device that fits over the card slot that’s designed to copy the information on the magnetic strip of your card when you insert it.
  • An alternative to a skimmer is a card trap, which is slid inside the real card slot, so the card won’t come out again once you’ve finished using the machine. Once you’ve left the area, the fraudsters remove the trap from the slot along with your card.
  • Sometimes a fraudster may be posing as a bystander. This is either to spot the PIN you enter on the keypad or divert your attention, so an accomplice can steal your card.
  • A more high-tech approach to discover your PIN is to place a hidden camera in the top or sides of the machine. They’ll then look to steal your card, so they can quickly make a large cash withdrawal before you can cancel the card.
  • If your card is held by a cash machine for whatever reason, call your bank straight away to make sure the card can’t be used.

11. What is Cheque Fraud?

Cheque fraud happens when criminals steal your chequebook or cheques to gain access to funds in your account. 

Cheque fraud operates in many ways. For example, a fraudster pays you for goods or services using a stolen cheque; or deposits a fraudulent or stolen cheque into your account; or steals individual cheques or a cheque book from you.

 Are you a victim of bank card or cheque fraud?

Your cards or chequebook have been stolen or faked and you notice unfamiliar transactions on your statement, or you find out that your overdraft limit is suddenly exceeded.

 What should you do if you’ve been a victim of bank card or cheque fraud?

  • You should report lost or stolen cheque books or any missing cheques. Banks and companies have 24-hour emergency numbers printed on account statements.
  • Report the offence to the relevant bank or building society, which will then be responsible for reporting the matter to the police. If the theft of your cheques involved another crime – for example, if your bag was also stolen – you should make sure it is reported to the police.
  • Remember to keep a record of all communications.
  • Get a copy of your personal credit report from one of the credit reference agencies such as CallCredit, Equifax or Experian
  • Consider contacting CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered, CIFAS members will carry out extra checks whenever anyone applies for a financial service using your name and address.
  • Protect yourself against bank card and cheque fraud, keep your cheque books and financial details safe.

12. What is Mobile Phone Fraud?

Mobile phone fraud involves a variety of scams that either persuade you to buy phone-related products/services that turn out to be substandard or non-existent; or to make phone calls or texts to premium services by accident; or to unknowingly sign up to expensive subscription services.

There are a variety of frauds that target you on your mobile. Here are some of the most common: 

  • Missed call scams 
  • Recorded message scams
  • Text message scams
  • Ring tone scams
  • Phone insurance scams

What should you do if you’ve been a victim of mobile phone fraud?

Tell your mobile phone provider. 

Inform Phone-paid Services Authority, which regulates premium numbers and has statutory powers to stop mobile phone frauds and fine the offenders.

If you text the word STOP to the subscription number, the sender is legally obliged to stop sending text messages immediately. If they don’t, contact Phone-paid Services Authority, which investigates complaints about phone-paid services.

Protect yourself and your mobile or smart device from fraud  

  • Set up a password or passcode on your phone or tablet and keep it locked when you’re not using it.  
  • Never store personal details like passwords or PIN numbers in texts or emails that are accessible through your phone or tablet. 
  • If your phone is stolen, tell your provider straight away – they can blacklist and deactivate it remotely. You should then change any passwords for online accounts you access through your phone as soon as possible (for example online banking). 
  • Never allow application or files to be installed from unknown sources particularly on smartphones/tablets (e.g. Android apps outside of Android Market™)
  • If you visit a website through your mobile or tablet and the URL looks suspicious, close it down straight away
  • If you sell your phone/tablet or give it away, make sure you complete a factory reset to clear all your content from it - you’ll find out how in your user guide. 
  • Set up a secure pin on your voicemail so that only you can access your messages. Call into your voicemail service to do this. Follow your service provider’s guidelines if you're unsure.
  • Many smartphones and tablets now come with the ability to remotely lock and track it if it’s lost or stolen.  There are many apps but some handsets themselves are capable of this. Check with your manufacturer’s website.

 Need further assistance? 

For further information on any aspect of business fraud or corruption please contact us on 0800 298 3899 or email:

We hope you enjoyed the #12frauds, why not sign up to our monthly e-update service to #staysafe