Scams cost consumers in the UK around £3.5bn a year, the Office of Fair Trading estimates.
A survey of Which? members earlier this year revealed that two thirds of members had been exposed to a scam in the last three years, or knew a family member who had.
Consumers are especially vulnerable at Christmas when present shoppers are looking for an ideal gift.
Nearly nine in ten Britons shop online for Christmas presents, with 36% having bought all or most of their Christmas presents online last year.
Make sure you stay safe with our top tips on scams and, if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, our tips could help you get your money back.
1. How to spot a scam
Avoid falling for a scam by asking yourself a few simple questions. Were you contacted out of the blue? Does the deal seem too good to be true? Read our guide on spotting a scam for more information.
2. How to spot phishing emails
The most common scam Which? members have faced is phishing emails – emails that pretend to be from reputable organisations, such as your bank, trying to obtain personal details.
Never reply to an email that claims to be from your bank. Delete it immediately and contact your bank to double check.
Never click on a link in an email that you think might be suspicious. Read more advice in our our guide to phishing emails.
3. Scams in the sales
Retailers have rules they must follow to ensure that any sale they advertise is a genuine one.
If a retailer is deliberately misleading you or is grossly negligent while advertising a sale, it could be considered an unfair breach of contract.
Read the guidelines any company must follow when advertising a sale to make sure you’re getting the deal you think you are.
4. Reporting scams to your bank
If you think you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately. Explain exactly what happened and your bank should act in your best interest and refund your money.
5. Be aware of phone scams
In a survey conducted by Microsoft, more than a fifth of people surveyed in the UK had received a scam call about a fake computer problem.
Nuisance calls can be extremely frustrating and disruptive. Read our guide to find out how to stop unwanted phone calls.
6. Spam text messages
Don’t let the senders of spam text messages get away with it. In a Which? survey of 2065 people in September this year, six in 10 people told us they’d be more likely to report a spam text or nuisance call if they knew who to turn to.
Read our guide to find out how to deal with spam text messages.
7. Dating website scams
In a Which? survey of 2,052 people in May this year, two in five people who used dating websites told us they had discovered fake dating profiles.
Make sure you stay safe if using an online dating service and never wire money to anyone that you meet online.
8. Report to Action Fraud
Only 39% of people know how to report a scam if they saw one, according to our survey of 1,199 Which? members in October this year.
Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and crime reporting centre, providing a central point of contact about fraud. If you’ve been a victim of fraud, make sure you report it.
9. Report to your local police
You should also consider contacting your local police station to report a scam. Do not use 999 for this.
For more information, read our guide on how to report a scam.
10. Get your money back
If you are the victim of a scam, it can be very distressing. But all is not lost.
You do have rights if you’re scammed on your debit or credit card. Read our guide to find out how to get your money back after a scam.