Avoid being a scam victim at Christmas

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It’s the season to be jolly – and advice from trading standards experts about how to make sure the gifts you buy are safe. Warnings over untested and unsafe gifts circulate every year as the rush to buy the most in demand presents gathers pace.

Trading standards teams are working to clamp down on counterfeit goods and stop online scams.

Coun Glynn Gilfoyle, chairman of the community safety committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, has revealed what work the authority’s team focus on during the festive season.

He said: “Every year, trading standards teams are on the lookout for unsafe toys and goods which pose a safety risk or do not comply with health and safety legislation, online scams which target unsuspecting internet shoppers and counterfeit products which mimic the real item.

“Cybercrime appears to be on the increase with more and more transactions taking place online.”

Last year the team alerted the Mansfield public and surrounding areas about an influx of Disney Frozen toys which were counterfeit and potentially unsafe.

Counterfeit and unsafe Frozen toys and merchandise seized by Nottinghamshire County Council's trading standards team

Counterfeit and unsafe Frozen toys and merchandise seized by Nottinghamshire County Council's trading standards team

This Christmas, they are also on the look-out for potentially unsafe self-balancing scooters dubbed hoverboards as in the rush to meet demand huge numbers of untested and unsafe items have been rushed in.

Problems include the chargers and internal electrics, which do not meet European or UK standards and come with inadequate instructions.

“Our Trading Standards team works with the National Trading Standards E-Crime team to investigate and stop these crimes from happening”, added Coun Gilfoyle. But each year many people still fall victim.

“Watch out for bogus websites or Facebook accounts, advertising very cheap goods as a way of obtaining your bank details.

Coun Glynn Gilfoyle, community safety committee chairman at Nottinghamshire County Council

Coun Glynn Gilfoyle, community safety committee chairman at Nottinghamshire County Council

“Before you make an online purchase ensure that you are certain that you are dealing with a legitimate business. If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably a scam.”

In Derbyshire, trading standards teams have recently seized fake G-star jeans and Barbour jackets worth £5,000 in one of the biggest hauls of its kind in the UK.

They worked with police, using sniffer dogs, to inspect units of a self-storage site in south Derbyshire.

Almost two million cigarettes and 580kg of tobacco with a street value of at least £1million were seized, along with 31,000 Viagra tablets and 30 boxes of illegally stored fireworks. Enquiries are continuing.

Coun Dave Allen, Deryshire County Council cabinet member for health and communities, said: “We have a duty to support legitimate traders and protect consumers from fake cigarettes, potentially harmful or ineffective medicines and overpriced fake branded clothing and are committed to continuing our work to tackle this illicit trade.

“We’ll continue working with the police and other partner agencies to inspect shops and carry out raids as well as support retailers with our training programme to help them stay on the right side of the law.”

To find more information visit Trading Standards

Christmas Shopping Advice

Always buy from a reputable retailer, whether on-line or on the high street

When buying online always ensure the seller has a postal address and contact number so unsafe or faulty items can be reported and returned

Any chargers should have UK standard plugs and should also be ‘ce’ marked

If items cost over £100 consider paying by credit card, as this gives extra protection

Always ensure online payments are secure

When items arrive ensure they are ‘ce’ marked and come with adequate instructions

Never use chargers from other items, even if the fittings are the same. They may not be suitable and could cause a fire.

If you have been targeted by a scam, you can report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506