Close-up of businessman giving money to another manTis the holiday season. Christmas is a time for giving, but for some, it is also a time for taking (illegally), so watch out for these festive frauds.

In the UK, Europe, USA and many countries around the world, December is a time when many companies and individuals get into the spirit of the season. Companies organise holiday parties to promote teamwork and boost morale, while individuals get busy with gift-buying and planning a series of get-togethers with friends and family members.

This is a time of celebrations, but sadly, it is also a time when hackers, scammers and fraudsters lie in wait for unassuming businesses and individuals to fall prey to an array of digital trap and deception.

Common scams that individuals and businesses should be aware

1. Online shopping scams

Fraudsters know that everyone loves a bargain, so fraudulent websites mimicking legitimate businesses and promoting products at highly attractive prices will continue to trick unsuspecting consumers.

These websites do not send you the goods you have purchased. They take your money, along with your name, address, email, phone and credit card number. With your ‘identity’ now in their hand, they can pretend to be you when they commit other crimes or sell your data in the black market.

2. Phishing scams

In the article Top 10 tips for keeping your business safe from cyber-crime, we mention that phishing is the most common form of cyber-crime in the business world today. It happens when fraudsters try to deceive you into revealing personal data or making a payment to them.

During the festive periods, as we ramp up our online purchases, many of us will undoubtedly receive emails about a parcel delivery or pick-up. Fraudulent parcel scams involve emails containing a bad link or an attachment with malware. Once you click on the link or open the attachment, hackers can take control of your computer remotely. They may then steal sensitive information, or in the case of ransomware, they lock down your computer until a ransom is paid.

3. Credit card fraud

There are two sides to this. The first part involves individuals losing their credit cards or having their credit cards ‘skimmed’ (copied). Fraudsters then use their credit cards to make purchases. In most instances, consumers are not liable for these unauthorised payments unless you are negligent or you have taken a long time to report the card missing.

The second part involves businesses, particularly those who experience increased orders and transactions in months leading to Christmas. If fraudsters are using fake credit cards to make purchases from your store, you will not be liable if:

  • The buyer uses contactless or chip & pin to purchase in your premises.
  • The buyer makes a purchase on your online store where they are asked to use 3D secure authentication (such as Verified by Visa, SafeKey by American Express and SecureCode by Mastercard).

4. Investment scam

December is a month of celebration but also a month when our spending spree will go into overdrive. Knowing that many individuals may have overspent and would like to make a quick buck, fraudsters seize the opportunity and promise huge returns on seemingly genuine investments, anything from a land development scheme to cryptocurrency investment that only happens in the digital realm.

The point remains – if the investment seems too good to be true, then it is probably a scam.

Watch out for Christmas gift bribery too

In the UK, it is common for companies to send corporate gifts to their partners and clients during the festive season as a way of showing gratitude, but companies who splash out on extravagant gifts can be considered a bribe.

According to the Bribery Act 2010, a bribe is ‘giving someone a financial (or other) advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so’.

If you are preparing generous gifts to your clients this year, or if certain members in your team are receiving over-generous gifts, then it is worth consulting a solicitor and makes sure that your company acts appropriately.

Blackhawk Intelligence can help you to fight fraud

If you suspect that someone within your company has been involved in some fraudulent activity, accepting bribes, or even bribing another person to sweeten a deal, contact Blackhawk Intelligence today on +44 (0)20 8108 9317. We can help you identify, trace the misdeed (if necessary), and can also support you through the litigation process.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.