6 Christmas shopping pitfalls and how to avoid them

7th Dec 18 | Lifestyle

With the pressure to spend, spend, spend, it's all too easy to get stung at this time of year.

Christmas woman with red Santa Claus hat screaming holding long wish list stressed out showing frustration.

The Christmas countdown has well and truly started and for many people, the hunt is now seriously on for gifts for loved ones, and maybe a few pressies for themselves to put under the tree too.

But there are pitfalls to watch out for while browsing – so make sure you don’t end up buying now and regretting later.

Here are six Christmas shopping pitfalls we should all try to avoid…

1. Falling victim to an online fraud

Men wearing blue sweater and eyeglasses holding credit card and using laptop at home office during christmas holidays
Beware those ‘too good to be true’ deals… (Thinkstock/PA)

Over 15,000 shoppers across the UK were conned out of more than £11-million over the Christmas period last year, according to figures from Action Fraud and City of London Police.

As people search for bargains and gifts for loved ones, fraudsters see this as an opportunity to trick people with the promise of great deals and big cash savings. Victims may find themselves defrauded on popular social media and online auction websites.

Mobile phones are a common item fraudsters use to hook victims in – with ‘bargain’ deals on some of the most popular models of smartphones, only for the phone to never actually arrive – leaving victims without gifts to give on Christmas Day. Games consoles, computers and household items have also featured in many reports.

Last year, more than 30% of reports were made by women aged between 20 and 29 – but anyone can fall victim to Christmas shopping fraudsters. Remember, if something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist. Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online says: “Really simple steps, such a paying via a credit card over a bank transfer or only using reputable shopping sites, can make a big difference towards protecting yourself online this Christmas.”

2. Buying goods which turn out to be dangerous
The charity Electrical Safety First warns that fake electrical items can be virtually impossible to spot, with online shoppers misled by imagery taken from official product websites, fake official safety marks, glowing reviews and believable pricing. They’re often retailing for just a few pounds below recommended retail value to avoid arousing suspicion – and at a time of year when genuine products are sold at bargain prices, it’s even harder to tell the difference.

The charity says people should look for the seller’s contact details – and if they are not supplied in full, shoppers should be wary. Many fake electrical goods are manufactured overseas, where they are produced as quickly and cheaply as possible. Look out for packaging which could provide telltale signs that goods are fake – if there are spelling mistakes or it’s flimsy quality, or if the printing is poor.  Also, fake products may not include supplementary materials, such as a manual or a product registration card or even all the parts!

If you suspect you have purchased a fake, stop using it immediately as it could be dangerous. For more advice, visit electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/spotthefake.

3. Being too influenced by ‘influencers’
A recent survey of 15-24-year-olds from Barclays found a third (30%) regularly look at celebrity or influencer social media accounts for shopping inspiration. While it’s great to get ideas, just remember you may not have the bank balance to match the lifestyle you’re trying to emulate.

Clare Francis, savings and investments director at Barclays, suggests asking yourself: “Can I afford this right now?” Or, “Are there other items that I need more?” And if all else fails, consider turning social media notifications off for a while.

4. Thinking you always need to buy new
Charity shops are full of children’s toys, many of which have hardly been played with. Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “Younger children aren’t going to care whether it comes in the original packaging, so you can pick up second-hand toys for a fraction of the price. Adults, meanwhile, may well love a vintage gift.”

5. Believing everything you read
Many of us will search online to see what other buyers thought before making a purchasing decision – but watch out for fake reviews, which could potentially mislead you into buying something which isn’t as good as you were led to believe. Consumer group Which? says the signs of fake reviews could include them being repetitive, the language not sounding natural, such as sounding too much like an advert, or being too short or too long.

6. Finally, forgetting what you’ve already got

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re rushing around the shops with Christmas songs being blasted into your ears, while stores’ special offers and bargain bins can also prove a distraction, making it easy to forget what you were looking for in the first place.

To stay focused, try setting out with a shopping list – and only sticking to the items that are on it.

© Press Association 2018