#money-tips | 5 min read

How to protect yourself from scams this festive season

By TymeBank - 18 December, 2020

The festive season is finally here. We’re all ready for a much-needed and well-deserved break. It’s a time of celebrating, of relaxing and of giving … but be careful or you’ll give all your hard-earned cash to scammers who take advantage of your chilled vibes during the holidays.

3 scams to avoid this festive season

While you’re winding down for the year, scammers are just getting warmed up. Here are three must-know fraud tactics to be aware of this festive season.

1. Fake online stores

While searching for the perfect gifts for those on your naughty or nice list, you’ll naturally be shopping for bargains (this is 2020, no judgement!). The problem comes when you’re lured in by the insanely unbeatable prices of fake online retailers. You could end up paying for goods that you’ll never receive and, worse, you’re handing over your credit card or bank account details, which the scammers can use to steal even more money from you!

Fake online shops are easy to set up, and once the scam is complete, they’re shut down, and a new store with a different name pops up in their place.

2. Fake adverts

Imagine finding your dream accommodation in uMhlanga for the December break, booking and paying online and then arriving in your swimming shorts and flipflops only to find out it was all a scam. The flat is real, but the booking website, landlord and reservation are all fake.

And it’s not just fake holidays they’ll trap you with. Got your eye on some new wheels to drop your Christmas bonus on? Or how about a squishy little puppy to melt bae’s heart?

Fraudsters are masters at selling fake goods and experiences, and they know that during the festive season the time is right for getting you to hand over your money. 

A common scam involves cars that are advertised at discounted prices. It looks legit – there are photos, detailed descriptions and the contact details of the seller, who has a great story explaining why they’re selling for such a discounted price and why they need to sell so quickly. Once the deal is done (and paid for), the seller disappears. There’s no car, no money, and no hint there was ever a post selling the vehicle in the first place.

Accommodation scams are similar. Photos and descriptions of real rentals are copied from well-known websites, and fake adverts are set up to lure you in. They even come complete with phoney reviews saying how incredible the experience was. You pay upfront, the posts quickly disappear, and all you’re left with are contact details that no longer work.

And pets? There are loads of scams dedicated to selling animals – particularly kittens and puppies. Social media and classified ads are the main way fraudsters draw you in. You pay, try to collect the adorable ball of fluff you saw in the pics, and sadly discover that all you have is a fake address.

3. Pre-approved loan notice scams

We could all use a little extra cash for the festive season, but beware fake pre-approved notices that require upfront fees or cash payments to activate the ‘loan’. If you’re dreaming of a great holiday or want to spoil your loved ones with gifts that are just out of your price range, don’t rush to extend your credit without double-checking where it’s coming from.

6 tips to protect yourself from scams

1. Stick to well-known sites

It’s great to shop small and local, but to avoid scams, either choose well-known online brands or match the online store with a local manufacturer that you can double check.

2. Look for red flags

Specifically, look for contact details that include a physical address, phone number and email address and verify them through Google My Business or Google Maps. Look out for proper sales, returns and privacy policies as well. You could also run an image search on Google to check that they haven’t stolen the pictures from another website.

3. Trust your gut

If something looks too good to be true, it usually is, whether that’s finding last-minute accommodation at an excellent rate or a sweet deal on the ride you’ve always wanted.

4. Look for a track-record

If you’re on social media, check how long a page has been operating for. If it’s brand new with loads of new posts, proceed with caution.

5. Guarantees and upfront payments are red flags

Pre-approvals mean that you can apply for a loan, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it, so be suspicious of ‘100% guarantees’. You’ll also never be asked to make an upfront payment to activate a loan.

6. Guard your personal info

You’ll be surprised by how much scammers can do if they get their hands on your personal data, including opening accounts and applying for loans in your name. You need to protect your information, and that means not dishing it out to just anyone – especially not to people who phone, WhatsApp or DM you on social media claiming to be from the bank and offering to “help” you with fraud claims or account issues.

What to do if you think you think you’ve been scammed

If you think that your banking details might be in the hands of scammers, contact us immediately on 0860 999 119 to block your bank account or deactivate your digital banking profile. If someone calls you claiming to be from the bank, rather end the call and contact our customer care line to verify that it is legit.

TymeBank is serious about security. We also recommend that you make all EFT payments via your TymeBank app as it’s a safer option than carrying large amounts of cash when purchasing goods from strangers. Please regularly check your bank statements to ensure there’s no suspicious activity on your account, and contact us immediately if you’re unsure about a transaction.

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