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January sales or January scams

January is a traditional period of sales, attracting bargain hunters all over the UK looking for a great deal on that sought after item. But scammers can see us coming. It’s becoming a minefield out there, trying to navigate to a genuine bargain amongst all the trickery and scams put in our way.

By Rightly

Wed 11 Jan 2023

4 min read

Jan Sales Blog Blog

The festive break is over, and for many people, their attention turns to thoughts of bargains to be found in the January sales, that period of legend where people sometimes camp outside Harrods and other stores to grab some marked down item the second the store opens. Nowadays of course, a lot of the January sales burst occurs online.

Lurking in the shadows of the internet, scammers see the January sales period as one in which they can catch countless victims. Around the UK, police forces have been warning communities to be wary of scammers, who are out to take advantage of shoppers both in stores and online.

So what should you look out for?

Watch out for fake reviews

When we’re bargain-hunting online, it seems useful to click through to the reviews and see what other customers have to say about a particular product. This makes a lot of sense, but you have to be careful to be sure that the reviews are genuine and not fake. ‘Brushing scams’ have been on the rise, where unscrupulous companies send unwanted products to people and generate fake reviews to raise the profile of an inferior product, giving it a higher but false rating.

Warning signs to watch out for include multiple reviews being posted at about the same time, overwhelming, sycophantic praise and the same phrases or expressions appearing in individual reviews. It’s worth considering looking beyond the five-star reviews and taking a look at the four, three and two-star reviews to build a clearer picture of what’s good or not so good about a product.

Watch out for counterfeit products

The winter sales period often sees an increase in offers from unfamiliar brands, but also counterfeit, fake versions of familiar ones. It’s best to buy the real thing and be sure who you're buying it from. Fakes are inferior in quality, contravene copyright law and affect the livelihoods of workers who make the real thing. In some cases, they can also be unsafe to use.

Watch out for cheap products

We all love a genuine bargain. But, sellers in online marketplaces will often jump on the bargains bandwagon by advertising cheap products in the January sales, targeting people on the hunt for a great deal. Some of these ‘bargains’ are nothing of the sort, and could be faulty and even dangerous.

Watch out for fake websites

Scammers set up fake websites that look remarkably close to the real thing, using logos and typography that make it hard to spot. But there are often little telltale signs that the site you're looking at isn’t quite the real deal. For example, they often use poor English, or the grammar is off, or a poorly drafted phrase or expression is used.

You should always closely check the url. For example, a website for Nike would have the url nike.com. But if you come across one that is pretending to be Nike and, for example it’s called nikebargain.com, presenting itself as if it is genuine, it’s almost certainly not really Nike at all and you should avoid it.

Ideally, if you want to visit a website, type the address in yourself to be sure it’s the real thing.

Watch out for fake offers

Social media platforms are prime turf for scammers to present gifts, tickets or holidays that are not real. Many such offers appearing on social media are genuine, but be cautious about something that catches your eye, just in case it’s the criminals.

Watch out for scam comms

In addition to social media, scammers will also use email and texts to lure the unwary into their web. Many people will receive unsolicited texts, emails and calls from scammers trying to take advantage of the January sales period. Never click on links sent in a text or an unsolicited email.

Watch out for fake delivery texts

It seems almost everyone has received a fake text purporting to be from a delivery company. Royal Mail is often impersonated with scammers claiming that you need to pay an "unpaid shipping fee". ‘Helpfully’, they include a link for you to click, and if you do they will start the process of acquiring your personal data. Similar fake texts appear to come from Amazon and many of the big courier companies such as UPS, DPD and Evri, but they are not always what they seem. Remember, none of these companies will ever ask you to pay a delivery cost via a text message. If you get a message like this, it’s a scammer trying to trick you. Never click on links in texts, navigate to a genuine website yourself to check.

Watch out for the warning signs of a scam

Never transfer money directly to people or companies you don’t know. You may not be able to recover the money if it’s a fraud. You may have some protection if you pay for things with a credit card, not just products but also holidays, travel and tickets.

Another warning sign is when you get asked for personal details, or when someone seems to be putting pressure on you to make a decision about a purchase, trying to make you act quickly or creating a sense of urgency. These are classic scammer tactics.

Take steps to limit your exposure

For a scammer to target you, they need some of your personal data. Sometimes they acquire that through buying data stolen from companies by hackers. Your personal data probably sits in thousands of databases held in many companies, including some you may not even have heard of.

One way to reduce your risk of being targeted by scammers is to get your data deleted from any company that doesn't need it. If scammers can't get your data then there’s less chance that they’ll come after you in a scam. You can get your data deleted from any company that doesn't need it by using Rightly Protect. Our service is quick, simple and free.

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