Money management

5 scams to watch out for this Christmas

December 20th, 2023.

Keep yourself protected from festive fraud. Stay safe and informed with our list of common scams to look out for.

Christmas is a particularly busy time for fraudsters, so to help you stay safe and remain vigilant this Christmas, we’ve put together 5 of the most common scams to watch out for.

1. Delivery Scams

Delivery scams are one of the most common frauds. December is the busiest time of year for postage, so fraudsters use this as an opportunity to impersonate delivery services and try to scam people into disclosing personal information or to pay additional fees to ‘guarantee’ delivery. To avoid getting caught out by this scam, don’t respond to or click directly on links included in email or texts. Instead, contact your courier directly, via their website or mobile app.

2. Purchase scams

Similar to delivery scams, fraudsters often try to take advantage of Christmas shoppers by advertising products at an ‘incredible price’. During the past year this has increased in frequency and is currently most often seen on Facebook Marketplace. Fraudsters often target in-trend items, such as air fryers, and will change these depending on demand. Only buy items through a recognised payment method (not bank transfer) or use a credit card, and always try to make purchases in person when collecting the item.

3. Impersonation scams

Fraudsters will impersonate a person in a trusted institution to authorise a payment fraud or harvest your information. Past examples of this have included:

  • Members of bank staff including customer services and fraud teams
  • National Crime Agency
  • Local constabulary
  • Utility providers
  • Action Fraud.

They will often tell you your account has been compromised and ask you to transfer funds to a ‘safe account’. They may also request payments in the background (unknown to you) and ask for your one-time password (OTP) to authorise the payment. The rationale given for the OTP request will often be to prove that they are speaking to a genuine person. Under no circumstances download any software at their request (even if this is anti-virus software, or similar), and do not disclose personal information including full passwords or one-time passwords. If in doubt, end the call/communication and reach out to the institution using a safe method such as the telephone number on the card or bank statement, application or physically go into a branch.

4. Romance/trusted person fraud

Often taking place over a long period of time, fraudsters will connect with a victim through a variety of methods in order to extract funds. This does not always take the form of a romance fraud but can also be under the guise of a friend or a trusted adviser. Key to this is building trust over a long period of time and then extracting money from the person under various guises.

This scam is often difficult to detect and the impact can be devastating on the victim. The fraudster will gain a victim’s trust and pitch an investment opportunity or request a loan for a purchase, often using a sense of urgency to increase fear for someone else’s personal safety (medical treatment or emergency travel costs), or the fear of missing out (such as once in a lifetime investment opportunities). After convincing a victim to send them funds they disappear with the money. Cashout methods often include a request to send funds to a crypto currency exchange, a prepaid card provider, or an online-only bank.

5. Investment frauds

There has been a recent growth in investment frauds and advance fee scams. Examples of this have included the promise of a tax rebate for an upfront fee to organise administration, purchase of FX investments and crypto currency investment scams. Only use firms which are registered with your local regulator for the services that they provide. Fraudsters will often state they are regulated in a country where you are not based, but regulation in different countries can vary significantly. Companies will often be needed to be registered with your local regulator to offer financial products in the country they are selling services.

The average loss of a romance scam in the UK is £11,500, but an investment scam can be significantly more with losses often up to £100,000. To avoid getting caught out by this scam, don’t invest or send funds to people you have met online, and don’t invest in any financial product that is not regulated by your local authority. Always be aware of any attempt to register you to a brokerage site that is not regulated by your local regulator, and be aware when friends, colleagues or banking staff ward you that you may be a victim of a scam. Often people not as close to the situation can more clearly recognise the red flags.

Please ensure you remain extra vigilant, particularly at this time of year, as the mechanisms used to impersonate legitimate companies or steal personal information continue to evolve and are often very sophisticated.

For more information, visit our protect yourself from fraud page.

Stay safe and have a happy festive season.


Clients of Nedbank Private Wealth can get in touch with their private banker directly to understand how wealth planning can help them achieve their financial goals and objectives, or call +44 (0)1624 645000 to speak to our Client Services team.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you with wealth planning support, please contact us on the number above or via our Contact us page.

Any examples of investments and structures used are for illustrative purposes only. The inclusion does not constitute an invitation or inducement to buy any financial investment or service. None of the content constitutes advice or a personal recommendation. Nedbank Private Wealth does not provide individual tax advice, and instead works with clients’ existing advisers or can provide an introduction if needed. Individuals should seek professional advice, based on their jurisdiction and personal circumstances, before making any financial decision.