“Consumers must be on their guard”: government targets fraud in the run-up to Christmas

The government has announced that it is reviewing more than 1,000 products to ensure Christmas gifts are safe for families, with 12,500 hazardous products, including toys, having been withdrawn from supply so far this year only. Additionally, shoppers have been urged to check for warning signs to stay safe this winter.

Ensuring the safety of buyers

Consumer Affairs Minister Paul Scully has announced that the government is testing products to make sure families stay safe. Specifically, it involves products from questionable third-party sellers in online marketplaces and the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) makes sure they meet the UK’s high standards for product safety, or make sure they are withdrawn from sale.

Mr Scully commented: “No parent should have to worry about the safety of the toys they bought their children for Christmas. Unfortunately, there are more threats than finding a lump of coal under the tree on Christmas morning, which is why we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe.

“The UK has some of the highest product safety standards in the world and we’re working hard to make sure nothing on the cheeky list ends up on Santa’s sleigh this Christmas. “

As OPSS makes efforts to combat these difficulties, the government notes that consumers can and should take steps to ensure their own safety.

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Fortunately, guidelines have been published on the exact steps that can be taken to provide this protection. The first thing people can do is make sure they know who they are buying from.

To do this, people can get as much information as possible about the seller, especially if they are buying from an online marketplace. Anything that is advertised on an online platform will not actually be sold by the seller and if it is based abroad the risks are increased.

Consumers were also asked to compare sellers when possible. The government notes that good deals “may be too good to be true” and Britons should price the product against other sellers. If what they are offered is only a fraction of the cost they find elsewhere, it could be counterfeit.

When it comes to the products themselves, especially toys, consumers have been advised to always read warnings and instructions and look for hazards and button batteries.

Finally, the state has advised consumers to check whether the toy or product they are purchasing has been recalled. The government explained, “It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or retailer to notify the public if a dangerous product is recalled, but we encourage consumers to regularly check this web page for important product safety information. “

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Christmas fraud

Mike Andrews, national coordinator of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, responded to the government’s efforts.

He said: “Many of us will be doing our Christmas shopping online this year so it is essential to remember that there are scammers online who are tempting us with offers for dangerous products.

“Consumers should be on guard when shopping online and check the website to make sure it is genuine before making a purchase. If you think the products are unsafe, report the seller and website to Citizens Advice Scams Action on 0808 250 5050.

This is because the Christmas season increases the risk of fraud across a wide financial spectrum as more money is spent and desperation arises.

Unfortunately, scammers have no shame in taking advantage of it. Last year, the FCA saw a 32% increase in loan fee fraud calls during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year.

Myron Jobson, Personal Finance Campaigner at Interactive Investor, said: “Unscrupulous criminals will stop at nothing to commit fraud, especially if it means exploiting people’s desperation to borrow at Christmas – leaving many in the face of a loss. real nightmare before Christmas.

“Loan fee fraud, where fraudsters come to the victim and offer a loan but charge an upfront fee for the money the victim ultimately never receives, tends to increase during the holiday season,” leaving the victims facing a higher mountain to climb to get out of debt. With the exception of certain financial products such as mortgages and parole loans, borrowers are not required to pay any upfront fees to take out a loan in the vast majority of cases.

“People often feel pressured to spend more than they can afford on elaborate gifts and food, and many may be willing to pay more this year after Covid restrictions derailed the celebration of it. last year for many.

Attempts to create the perfect Christmas for loved ones result in millions of dollars taking over overdraft, increasing credit card usage, taking out loans and using Buy Now Pay Later services every year. Whatever your budget, it’s important to spend within your means rather than entering the New Year with financial hardship due to your Christmas spending.

“Scammers don’t differentiate as to who they target, so we all need to be on our guard.

“Treat unsolicited contact on loans with caution. You can consult the FCA register to verify the legitimacy of financial companies. Beware of a shady website address, poor grammar and spelling, lack of reliable contact information, among others. But also be aware that scams are also getting more and more sophisticated. And never trust someone who wants personal information.

The current supply chain crisis may exacerbate this problem. According to a recent Nationwide Building Society survey, one in eight UK consumers admitted they would rush to buy items “too good to be true” without checking whether they are legitimate due to the gift shortage. .

The same data showed that more than four in ten people (42%) fear being the victim of a shopping scam and that more than one in ten people (11%) have themselves’ been duped. “.

On top of that, while around 45% of people would do some research before deciding to buy an item ‘too good to be true’, almost a third (35%) of Brits say they will never victims of a purchase scam. This, Nationwide noted, suggested a degree of confidence, and possibly overconfidence, that it would not happen to them.

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