I don’t know about you but at this time of year, I often find it tricky to keep track of what’s coming in and out of my account, leaving me more susceptible to scammers and fraudulent activity.

It’s for this reason that I am encouraging everyone to keep their wits about them this Christmas. According to new data, identity fraud rose by 22 per cent in 2023 when compared to 2022, with the trend expected to peak between now and the end of the year.

In our latest column, we explain some of the more common types of scams to look out for, and the ones that are easily masked or missed due to increased spending.

Purchasing scams

Picture it, you’re browsing online, and you see an advert for a games console that is out of stock EVERYWHERE or sold-out tickets to the must-see concert your children have been begging for. STOP and think.

If it seems too good to be true, then it typically is. Criminals often place adverts for fake consumer goods and events on popular social media and auction sites to steal money. Don’t fall foul of their trickery.

I also urge people to be scam-aware when using online marketplaces. In my house, we always have a big Christmas sort out, and sell any items that we no longer use.

Selling via Facebook Marketplace, for example, is convenient and effective but I suggest you only accept cash in hand on collection for these items - never give your bank details to prospective buyers.

Refund scams

With increased purchasing comes a higher chance of having to return items for a refund. However, stay scam smart as criminals can use this to their advantage by impersonating trusted organisations to illicit funds unlawfully. Never share banking information like your one-time passcode over the phone.

Imposter scams

While not connected to online purchasing, imposter scams should also be on your radar. They count as unsolicited contact by scammers posing as trusted organisations like HMRC or energy providers, saying you either owe money, you’re due a refund or there is an issue with your account.

During a cost-of-living crisis, this type of scam feeds on the vulnerability of those who are already feeling the pinch. My motto is: trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t engage.

Do and don’t scam aware checklist

Do: buy products and services directly from a brand's official site. Buying directly is often safer.

Do: check website link URLs before clicking on them. Hover the mouse over links contained within emails and social media ad displays and check that the links begin with https:// or a padlock in the address bar.

Do: Set a credit card and bank notification alert for all transactions and amounts. This way you'll see any unauthorised payments straight away.

Do: Beware of answering calls from unknown numbers.

Don’t: ever divulge personal information like your bank account details to any organisation, trusted or otherwise, before going through verified security checks. If in doubt, end the call and ring back later using the organisation’s official number.

Don't: make any financial transactions when using public Wi-Fi as it is not secure and could lead to your personal details being obtained.

If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam please visit https://www.gov.uk/report-suspicious-emails-websites-phishing where you will find information on what to do and who to speak to for help and support, and alert your bank or building society.

If you have a question for our next column, please email us at askjess@saffronbs.co.uk.