The ten/twelve scams of Christmas - 2010

There has been a lot of publicity for the recent McAfee release on the Twelve Scams of Christmas as seen from the United States. Nearer home you might like to consider the top ten in Northern Ireland last year. Mark Jenner, forensic accountants, produced a similar list but in a different order . But some of the most effective scams can arrive through your letter box, not just over the phone or by e-mails. A chain e-mail is currently doing the rounds about a simple but chillingly effective scam: “XYZ parcel service. Sorry you were out, ring nnn (a premium rate number)”. Phonepayplus says that the scam covered by the e-mail was closed down in 2005 and gives advice on how to recognise premium numbers.        


I wodner whether the chain e-mail is to prepare the ground for a new generation of similar scams using different, more convincing, names and numbers of the introduction to the Uk of some of the postal scams that were running last year in the US – involving the impersonation of postmen or the employees of well-known parcel delivery services. 

So who in the UK has produced or is promoting authoritative, easy to read guidance for those who will be shopping on-line next monday – supposedly the peak day for pre-christmas on-line shopping for delivery before Christmas.  

P.S. I wonder who made that prediction?

My wife completed her Christmas shopping last week. This is indeed the first year she has done any shopping on-line but most of what she has bought she found in local markets cheaper than I can find it on the Internet. This adds bite to the argument that it is only those in rural areas, with the worst broadband access and highest local prices, who most need to be able shop on-line. 

My wife and I use the criteria in the Get Safe on-line guidance on how to avoid an on-line rip-off  in particular that the first sign of a reputable supplier is that they give a physical address and phone number. Interestingly that is a legal requirement under the European Union e-Commerce Directive. Those who do not do so can therefore be assumed to be based outside Europe, let alone the UK. Unless they are shipping by air freight you can therefore assume that the goods will not arrive in time for Christmas, if ever.

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Good idea to use the "whois" website to identify sites you have not heard of. Also do a quick search of Google, Google Groups and Google News this should reveal if the site is a scam in most cases

Comment from Philip Virgo - This is a good idea but the validation of what is aid in the the whois entry is vey patchy. The recenlty announced plans of Nominet to actively tidy up the .uk entries are therefore most welcome.

Don't forget that even if you win an item fair and square, you can still fall victim to fraud.

The best way I know to guard against being ripped off by online sales or auctions of any kind, Craigslist and eBay included—and whether seller or buyer—is to use a *bona fide* online escrow company. Especially for pricier items like antiques, jewelry and autos. Although it does add some cost, it takes the uncertainty out of the transaction, and that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

For my money, the best bona fide online escrow (and there seems to be ten fraudulent escrow sites for every bona fide one) is probably ( In fact, it’s the only one that eBay recommends, and is the only online escrow company that is licensed to provide escrow services all across the United States.

PS. For more information about avoiding online scams and frauds, go to Online Escrow at (