The five biggest Christmas rip-offs

Emma Woollacott
Giant Christmas tree in shopping mall
Giant Christmas tree in shopping mall

Christmas is coming - and retailers are out for our money during their busiest time of year. And with the pressure on, even the canniest shopper can miss a trick or two.

But many Christmas bargains are not what they seem, as both reputable stores and scammers compete for our cash. We look at some of the biggest Christmas rip-offs to look out for this year.

Fake vouchers
At this time of year, the scammers get busy and one common fraud is to offer voucher codes and discounts via social media, email and text messages - there's a £100 'Sainsbury's' voucher currently doing the rounds on What'sApp, for example.

The aim, though, is to harvest your personal data. If somebody sends you a voucher like this, don't click on the link.

Fake goods
It's easy to be tempted by a bargain price - especially on a hard-to-find item like this year's must-have toy. But at this time of year, many fraudsters set up bogus websites offering cheap, counterfeit goods. They will be poor quality, or even dangerous.

If possible, stick to tried and trusted retailers, and if using one you don't know check it out on Google first.

Train tickets
It's worth thinking ahead about your Christmas travel arrangements. Advance train tickets are generally released about 12 weeks before the date of travel. But they can sell out quickly, so if you don't get your skates on you could be paying over four times as much.

If you've left it too late for an advance standard class ticket, you may even find it cheaper to pre-book first class than buy standard class on the day.

Auction fraud
Sites such as eBay do a roaring trade in the run-up to Christmas. However, it's not unusual for products to be fake - and they often don't exist at all. If a price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Research the seller before bidding, and above all always use the recommended payment method, as paying the vendor directly means you won't be covered by the site.

Store cards
More store-backed credit cards are taken out at this time of year than any other, as shoppers aim to spread the cost of their Christmas shopping. However, the interest rates can be extremely high compared with other forms of credit. Many impose rates of 20% or more, with Wallis, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins all charging a swingeing 29.9%.