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Five tips to help keep your money safe this Christmas

An expert’s guide

Whether you’re browsing for stocking fillers or booking a winter escape, see our simple tips to help avoid common Christmas scams.

While you’re busy seeking out the perfect festive presents, bear in mind that some fraudsters will be doing their best to have a happy Christmas at your expense – so make sure you stay one step ahead.

City of London Police’s National Coordinator for Economic Crime, Commander Karen Baxter, says: “Christmas is a busy time of year, when we’re required to make quick decisions, especially when it comes to present buying. Fraudsters see the Christmas rush as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of people’s generosity.”

During the Christmas period last year, some 12,142 people reported being a victim of online shopping fraud, losing more than £10 million collectively1. Over 2017 as a whole, figures from UK Finance reveal that victims of financial fraud overall lost an eye-watering £732 million2. To help you avoid becoming part of this year’s statistics, we have some tips to help you stay safe online over the festive season.

Last-minute shopping? Look for the lock

If you’re clicking through to a website from a link in an email or on social media, check the address bar at the top of your browser to make sure the site is legitimate and look for warning signs like poor-quality logos and imagery. Digital Eagle Ross Martin – one of our team of resident tech experts – explains: “Fraudsters use well-known brands such as internet retailers and supermarkets in adverts to lure us in and make us click through to a fake website.”

If you’re making an online purchase, one way to verify if the site is secure is to look for the padlock symbol in the browser window and check the website begins with ‘https’ (the ‘s’ stands for secure). This is a good first check, but bear in mind it isn’t 100% foolproof as fraudulent websites can mimic elements of a secure site. If you have any suspicions, check the contact details on the website and give them a call to sound them out. If you still have doubts, shop elsewhere – and, if you have children or older relatives, make sure they know to keep an eye out for fake websites as well.

See our tips here on staying vigilant while shopping online.

Donating to charity? Take a closer look

Brits are a generous bunch, donating an incredible £10.3 billion to charity in 20173. However, with charity fraud on the rise4 it’s important to be cautious, especially in November and December when donations peak.

Some fraudsters create fake charity websites so that your festive donation goes into their pocket rather than to its intended destination. If you’re donating online, do your best to check that the charity website is genuine and secure in the same way you’d check a site before making an online purchase. Plus, if it’s a charity you’re not familiar with, check that they are who they say they are and have a registered charity number here. Some charities may contact you by email seeking a donation in the run-up to Christmas. Find out more about dealing with unsolicited emails here.

Heading away? Check for an ATOL

Now is a great time to start planning a holiday for 2019 – but, before you book, make sure the travel company has an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) and is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Check this by doing an ABTA member check and an ATOL holder search via their websites.

If you lose your card while you’re away, report it as soon as possible. Or if it’s just misplaced, you can now temporarily freeze it in the Barclays Mobile Banking app5.

A word of caution to social media sharers: you may want to think twice before posting that picture on Instagram or checking in on Facebook – you could be inadvertently advertising that your house is empty. Turn off location services on your apps and ensure your privacy settings block strangers from seeing your posts. It may be worth waiting to post pictures and status updates until you’re back home.

Seen a great deal on social media? Remember not to rush

Social networks are popular platforms for fraudsters touting free e-vouchers for well-known brands or irresistible deals on anything from events to electronics – which more often than not will be nothing like what was advertised if they arrive.

Barclays Head of Cyber Security Operations, Paul Gillen, warns: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and make sure you only buy from trusted sources.”

Also watch out for follow-up calls requesting financial and other personal information – especially if the caller claims to be from your bank. If the call looks like it’s coming from us, we’ve just launched a new call verification system to help you be confident that the call is genuine before you accept it. The new feature, which works in both Barclays Mobile Banking and Online Banking, means that if you get a call from Barclays you can receive an app or Online Banking alert confirming that it’s a genuine call from us.

Remember, we’ll never ask you to

  • Tell us your PIN, password or PINsentry codes
  • Divulge your log-in details for Online Banking or Barclays Mobile Banking
  • Transfer money to a ‘safe’ account

Gifting gadgets? Make sure they’re protected

If you’re treating yourself or someone else to a new smart device for Christmas, make sure you take the time to set it up securely. This can include making sure the device’s anti-virus and anti-spyware software is up to date, and your firewall is strong. If you’re giving a smartphone or tablet to children or grandchildren, you can also consider setting up parental controls. These controls can help restrict app downloads and block access to certain games and features that you think are age-inappropriate. It’s easy to do, and both Android and Apple devices have guides available online with step-by-step instructions.

Ross advises: “Parents should spend some time setting up controls on devices before they gift them, to ensure that children are not left vulnerable when they receive their present.” Make use of Barclays Digital Wings bite-sized skills workshops to bring you ­– and the rest of the family – up to speed with all things tech, including online security.

Explore more of our fraud-prevention tips and tools – all designed to help keep you and your money safe. And finally, if you think that you’ve fallen victim to a scam, contact your bank as quickly as possible. Now you’re all set to enjoy a happy, scam-free Christmas.

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