One in five Brits scared of being scammed this Christmas

5 December 2016

  • Almost half don’t bother checking their statements thoroughly in the run-up to the festive period
  • One in five have been left disappointed after buying fakes online or not receiving purchases
  • More than a third don’t know how to spot a secure website – denoted by a padlock sign
  • Nationwide highlights ways to avoid being scammed at Christmas

One in five Brits (20%) are scared of being scammed at Christmas, new research by Nationwide Building Society1 has found, with many people failing to take simple precautionary steps.

The study of 2,000 UK adults found that nearly half (48%) admit to not checking their current account or credit card statements regularly to compare the details against what they know they have bought – therefore running the risk of not spotting a fraudulent or unknown transaction on their account.

While more than half (55%) say they avoid the high street and do the majority of their Christmas shopping online2, almost two in five (38%) don’t know how to spot if a website is secure or not – identified through a padlock symbol (see top tips below).

For those that do hit the high street to shop at Christmas, one in ten (10%) admitted to not shielding their PIN number at all at the cash machine when withdrawing money or paying for a purchase by card, while a further three in ten (30%) admitted to only shielding it sometimes. This creates a risk, especially as close to a fifth (18%) have experienced shoulder surfing – someone trying to see their PIN from behind.

And when an offer seems too good to be true, it more than likely is. More than one in five (22%) have been left disappointed after purchasing fake gifts, or have not received anything at all, after making an online purchase in the hope of grabbing a Christmas bargain.

In the spirit of sharing at Christmas, 15% of Brits share details on social media of what they are up to when either on holiday or making overnight visits to friends and family over the festive period – but experts warn this is potentially giving criminals the opportunity to strike.

Stuart Skinner, Nationwide’s Head of Fraud, said: “Our research reveals people are at risk of being scammed at Christmas if they don’t take some simple preventative steps. With fraud, often the most frustrating thing is that a lack of awareness or lapse in concentration can lead to someone being successfully targeted. We hope that by being aware of a few top tips that shoppers will be in a safer place this Christmas.

“Nationwide, like other financial institutions, has a range of measures in place that are highly successful in protecting our members from becoming fraud victims. However, scammers are always looking for ways to deprive people of their hard-earned cash.

“For example, criminals target ATMs at this time of year because of the increase in use, tied with the fact that in the holidays, people tend to be less likely to check their balances. This is why we recommend customers check their accounts regularly and shield their PINs in order to limit their chances of being defrauded.”

Nationwide is advising consumers to take some simple preventative steps and follow their tips at Christmas (the top five are below with more advice on How to avoid Christmas scams) .


1. Check your statement regularly. Keeping receipts and checking your statement will not only help you avoid overspending on gifts, but may also identify unrecognised transactions and reduce post-Christmas stress. It’s also important to make sure your financial services provider has your most up to date contact details, in case they need to contact you about anything suspicious.

2. Know how to spot a fake. If an offer’s too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid phony websites or voucher offers by doing your research. Make sure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage and has the padlock symbol – this indicates it’s a secure site. Research ‘offers’ to see if the one you have received is a known scam.

3.Keep your PIN safe. Make sure no-one is looking over your shoulder when entering your PIN at a cash machine or till – this is known as shoulder surfing. If they do, they then just need to snatch your card while you are busy in the Christmas crowds.

4. Don’t advertise that your house will be empty. Be careful who can see your posts on social media and what details you share. You may be letting more than your loved ones know when you will be away.

5. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. Even links in Christmas e-cards can contain malware, which can harm your device. Nationwide provides information on how to guard against viruses, spyware and other malicious software.


Nationwide is advising customers shopping online to ensure they are using genuine websites or risk being left disappointed at Christmas if their gifts for loved ones don’t arrive. However, should the worst happen, customers may be able to reclaim money back through the Section 75 rule under the Consumer Credit Act on goods purchased with their credit card. If, for example, the item is faulty or the goods are not received, the credit card provider may be jointly liable for the loss suffered by the customer. This could make it easier for customers to get their money back for items costing between £100 and £30,000.

Notes to Editors

1 The poll of 2,000 adults aged over 18 was carried out for Nationwide by online market researchers, OnePoll.com, and took place between 16 November 2016 and 21 November 2016.

2 OnePoll surveyed 2000 UK adults who celebrate Christmas between 4-9 November 2016.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

Please note: If you are a customer looking for information on our products and services, please visit the main website.