The 12 cons of Christmas: Part one - Christmas shopping
When those Christmas bells begin to chime, wallets are loosened and the nation goes shopping crazy. Research by ING has found that we will spend £350 each on gifts alone.
But, unfortunately, all our Christmas cheer is meat and drink to rip-off merchants and fraudsters only too willing to exploit our goodwill. This third installment of our four-part guide will help you avoid the cons and make sure your Christmas spirit lasts through to the New Year.
1. DON’T BE BLINDED BY PANIC
Christmas shopping panic can set in if you can’t find that latest must-have toy or limited edition DVD on the high street. But alarm bells should ring if something hard to come by is suddenly readily available.
Whether you’re down the pub or online, in all likelihood the goods will be fake. Check for logos and warranties to make sure you’re buying the genuine article. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
That said, items such as books and DVDs can be up to 20% cheaper online than on the high street, so do shop online - just be web savvy.
2. BE A SAVVY ONLINE SHOPPER
Experts believe we’re likely to spend around £5 billion online this December, but if you don’t want your hard-earned cash to end up in the pocket of some scamster, follow our online safety tips.
First off, make sure the website is genuine. Some scam artists are very good at designing websites to look like well-known brands and can fool the unwary. The best way to make sure you are shopping on the genuine website is to type in the address yourself rather than clicking on a link. Also look for a contact number and office address on the site.
The latest versions of web browsers help block spoof websites. Install the latest antivirus and firewall software on all your computers and switch on the ‘automatic updates’ setting so your protection is kept up-to-date.
At the online check-out, before you type in your credit card details make sure the web address bar has switched from ‘http:’ to ‘https:’ to indicate a secure, encrypted connection. Any legitimate online site processing payments always switches to a secure connection at this stage.
3. STEER CLEAR OF EXTENDED WARRANTIES
You know what it’s like. You get to the till after a long queue, shopping basket bulging and Wham’s Last Christmas ringing in your ears. Then the shop assistant casually asks if you’d like an extended warranty on your electrical goods "for peace of mind". It sounds sensible - after all you don’t want to leave the person the gift is for up the creek without a paddle if the item breaks - so you agree. But are they really worth it?
Three-year cover on a £30 toaster might cost £10 (30% of the purchase price). When you can buy a brand new toaster for the same amount, why bother?
Most goods come with a statutory 12-month guarantee already. And under the Sales of Goods Act, shops must replace faulty goods.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.