Okay, so here’s the ultimate in Grinchy behaviour: the Christmas puppy scam. It’s got to be one of the most cruel.

If you haven’t yet come across this one – and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – it involves a long online trail of the cutest puppy pics ever. And of course the litter is going fast and it’s first come, first served. Get in quick before they’re gone!

Emailed questions and answers about vets and vaccinations follow, as do promises from the kids that they will do all the walking and the poop scooping (yeah right). Money gets sent in a hurry, but – you’ve guessed it – the puppy doesn’t actually exist.

With so much being spent on gifts and shipping this time of year, fraud attempts tend to spike like a Christmas tree. And then there are all those prizes, deals and discount offers: perfect disguises for swindles.

So don’t let the eggnog dull your senses or the mistletoe distract – this is the time to stay sharp, revellers!

When fraudsters wrap their traps

CFFC’s Fraud Education Manager Bronwyn Groot says people are more at risk of falling for scams like this at Christmas.

"We're in a hurry, perhaps expecting parcels to be delivered, and are feeling financially stressed, so more motivated to act on offers of giveaways from retailers," she says.

And out come the con-artists – taking advantage of the holiday frenzy. So much can be faked these days.

"Take your time and have a Christmas safe from scammers,” she advises.

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Top 3 tips for avoiding Christmas scams

  • Don’t take the clickbait. Skip hyperlinks or email attachments that you were not expecting, or were sent from someone unknown. When an email lands about a parcel that’s supposedly arriving, make sure it’s real. No need to fall for that hook.
  • Hovering is your friend. You can easily hover over a hyperlink with your mouse to see where it leads before you click. If it looks like you’re about to go down a suspicious rabbit hole, just hop along.
  • Double-check it’s legit. If you’re tempted to take up a prize offer, check the company's website first. Some, such as Farmers and Countdown, will notify customers of scams and show examples of what to watch out for.

Back to the puppy scam – it’s always better to meet a new furry member of the family in person. Good breeders won’t even let a puppy go without seeing how it interacts with its potential owners, making sure the puppy is going to a good home.

Being there in person brings us back to the most elemental of exchanges: handing over the cash and, right then, taking home the cutest Christmas gift ever.

Enjoy the season, and stay sharp out there.

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