Christmas tree

Top 10 scams to look out for this festive period

Katie Alkaradi, Assistant Manager, Forensic Services
Christmas tree

UK shoppers alone lost £15.3 million to online scams over the last festive period (between November 2021 and January 2022) and new figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) revealed that on average, victims lose approximately £1,000 per person to online shopping scams.

Christmas is an expensive time of year regardless, however with the cost of living crisis also looming over everyone, individuals can be particularly susceptible to being scammed online.

Our top 10 Christmas scams of 2022

1. Whatsapp’s ‘friend in need’ scam

Whatsapp has been a popular platform that fraudsters have utilised in recent years. A popular scam has been the ‘friend in need’, where a victim receives a message from an unknown number, claiming to be someone the victim knows. With many struggling financially at the moment, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if a family member or close friend asked for some financial help. Be sure to either request a voice note or a phone call from the sender if you think you’ve received a ‘friend in need’ message.

2. Charity fraud

Fraudsters seek to take advantage of people’s goodwill and generosity over the holidays. This year there has been a reported loss of £2.3 million from 408 reports of charity fraud made to Action Fraud from January to November 2022. This is a 44% increase on last year’s figures. If you’re unsure as to whether a charity is legitimate, you can check the charity name and registration number before committing to any payments here.

3. Cost of living scams

The cost of living crisis has many in a vulnerable position and unfortunately, criminals are seeking to capitalise on this. Research has found that people could lose up to £3,000 through various scams. Here is a list of some of the more popular cost of living scams:

  • SMS messages and phishing emails impersonating Government bodies or regulators. These messages will ask for personal details in order for them to allegedly send out rebates or payments.
  • Food voucher scams from large super market chains claiming to provide money off your next shop.
  • Phone bill discounts from your provider.
  • Investment scams impersonating financial authorities such as the Financial Conduct Authority. Many of these will use fake websites, email addresses and phone calls that appear to come from a legitimate sender (spoofing).

4. Social media adverts

Despite social media platforms having policies in place that prohibits fraudulent adverts, many still find their way to users’ timelines and homepages. The lack of oversight on social media marketplaces and the influx of novice shoppers online looking for the best deals anticipates an acceleration of victims seeking affordable gifts this Christmas. While the goods in these ads will appear at a discounted rate, they may never be delivered.

5. Travel fraud

As there is a surge of people travelling to see loved ones over the Christmas period, fraudsters take advantage of inflating flight and accommodation prices, offering consumers a lower rate than the market average. Action Fraud received 4,244 reports of holiday and travel related fraud in 2021/2022, a 120% increase on the previous financial year. On average, £1,868 was lost per victim. If you’re travelling over the festive period, make sure you always travel with a reputable company and look out for the ABTA (The Travel Association) logo.

6. Counterfeit goods

Sellers will attempt to sell counterfeit goods to Christmas shoppers both online and in-stores. Counterfeit items can be dangerous as they are sub-standard and not fit for use and put legitimate companies at risk of losing business. It is also worth noting that purchasing counterfeit goods (whether it be voluntarily or not), supports corruption and facilitates criminal activity on a larger scale, including human and drug trafficking, bribery and money laundering.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has guidance on how to spot fake goods, click here to find out more.

7. Banking and digital wallet scams

As people increasingly use their cards and enter card details online for purchasing goods and services over the festive period, fraudsters take advantage to pose as your bank provider, this is also known as impersonation fraud. Text messages will be sent claiming that there is an issue with the victim’s digital wallet, and that it has been suspended or blocked from use. Fraudsters will state that the victim is required to provide their personal details to gain access to their account again, when really, they are providing the fraudster with access to their accounts.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 32% of phishing attempts impersonate financial institutions, whether it be through email, text messages or through social media messaging.

If you’re not expecting a call from your bank, it could be a scam. If you’re unsure, hang up and call your bank on a trusted number listed on their website.

8. Fake delivery

With Royal Mail strikes happening over the festive period, it is likely that people have opted to buy from sites that use courier services over Royal Mail. This, paired with the pressure of ensuring Christmas deliveries arrive on time leaves people susceptible to becoming victim of delivery scams. Fake delivery scams consist of a text that states that a courier has attempted to deliver a parcel. The message will also provide a link, asking for information to reschedule the delivery, and in some cases request a fee to do so.

9. Loan fee fraud

The FCA has stated that cases of loan fee fraud have risen by a fifth since last year.  Loan fee fraud is when those applying for a loan are asked for an upfront fee for a loan or credit that they never receive. The FCA stated that two in five people feel pressured by family and friends to maintain usual spending habits over the festive period, with one in eight planning to take out loans. With many having to endure financial hardship as a result of the cost of living crisis, fraudsters will seek to target those susceptible to taking out loans this Christmas.

10. Fake websites

By August 2022, over 95,000 scams across 174,000 malicious websites were removed. Make sure you’re shopping from a legitimate website by looking out for the closed padlock icon on the left side of address bar. Cybercriminals will spoof legitimate company domains, and can appear convincing at a glance. It can be easy to miss if you’re last minute panic buying gifts.

For further information on any of the topics discussed, and how to keep yourself protected from such scams please contact, Martin Chapman or your usual Crowe contact.

Did you know…

The United Kingdom has the highest number of cyber crime victims per million internet users at 4,783 as of December 2022.



We have compiled responses to a number of frequently asked questions which we received during and after our webinar.
How our specialist services can support your clients when the expertise is outside your remit.
Our report shows how significant fraud is to the profitability and public trust in infrastructure projects.
We have compiled responses to a number of frequently asked questions which we received during and after our webinar.
How our specialist services can support your clients when the expertise is outside your remit.
Our report shows how significant fraud is to the profitability and public trust in infrastructure projects.

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Martin Chapman
Martin Chapman
Partner, National Head of Forensic Services