Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
If you’re braving the high street in the run-up to Christmas make sure you keep your wits about you. Not only is this a mega-shopping time, it’s also a mega-fraud time with pick-pockets and credit card swindlers out in force.
Here are our tips to keep safe on the High Street (and in the markets particularly):
Easy to say, of course, but this is a time when you have to be extra-vigilant and keep your hand on your bag and over your purse/wallet at all times. Don’t put money or credit cards in your back pocket either. They’ll be far too easy to filch there.
Scam artists are hanging around many of the most obvious ones so try to go for quiet ones that don’t have crowds around them. Beware of ‘helpful’ strangers if you are using a cash machine.
e.g. in restaurants
To see if you’ve been scammed or your card has been skimmed.
If you think your card security has been compromised, report it to your building society or bank immediately.
If you’re buying at markets, and particularly car boot sales – which do often have some great bargains around this time of year – be aware that there are fake, dodgy products around that could be actually dangerous and certainly poor value for money.
The Real Deal Campaign, which is supported by the Trading Standards Institute, was set up to help shoppers choose markets and stalls that have been vetted by trading standards. You can find which markets are covered by the Real Deal charter on their website.
You do need to watch out because criminals will deliberately copy well-known brands – sometimes even charging a similar price – and it can be hard to tell until you actually use them. The real problem can be with dodgy electrical appliances. The outward appearance and packaging of electrical goods such as chargers and hair straighteners can be copied fairly well, but the internal composition and materials are likely to be botched and could make them very dangerous.
Generally, if the price looks too good to be true…it probably is.
Also, if you’re shopping online, watch out for unfamiliar sites. The main areas of risk are auction sites and entirely fake websites.
It’s always best to stick to familiar brand-name or retailer websites. Remember that all the sites that are mentioned in MoneyMagpie.com have been checked by us so you can be confident of clicking through to those.
You can also use search engines to research a website to see if people have had problems with them – take a look on forums and blogs to see what people really think.
So shop safe and if in doubt, don’t buy!