Hot tubs and holidays: summer scams alert!

In support of the Citizens Advice Scam Awareness campaign, here are some scams to be aware of this summer and how to avoid even the most convincing scam attempts.

New research from UK Finance has revealed that fraudsters stole £2,300 a minute from victims in 2022, totalling a striking £1.2 billion throughout the whole year. While this down 8% on 2021’s figure, when there was a significant increase due to the pandemic, it’s still worrying to think of the new ways in which scammers prey on our vulnerabilities for their own gain.

Here are some shocking scams to be aware of, especially now as fraudsters exploit the summer holiday season.

Passport renewals – jumping the queue or too good to be true?

We’re fast approaching peak summer holiday season and while it’s exciting to think about our upcoming travel plans, fraudsters know this and can exploit our excitement for their own gain.

A scam has arisen as a result of passport office workers being on strike for five weeks between April and May this year in England, Scotland and Wales. The strike has caused delays in passport renewal times, leaving many concerned about getting their passports issued or renewed in time to jet off abroad as planned.

With the wait time currently at 10 weeks, scammers have caught onto this issue and are pitching fast-track applications to unsuspecting victims via social media or other online sites, for a fee. However, HM Passport office is the sole provider of UK passports, and no third party can act on their behalf.

So, this scam could see you part with your money and even your personal details under false pretences, as your new passport won’t get processed at all! In fact, if you hand over any details from your passport, you could even face the risk of identity theft so it’s even more crucial to only share your passport through the official channel.

Hot tub scams bubble up in summer

As the evenings grow longer and warmer, many of us look for ways of sprucing up our garden, ready for a glorious summer – if the weather gets on-board that is!

Hot tubs are a luxury item that grew in popularity during the pandemic as an escape in which to relax and unwind. Now, hot tub season is upon us, with a surge of interest from consumers in buying one, ready for summer.

But criminals know this and ramp up their scamming activities – looking to target online shoppers who want to purchase in-demand items such as hot tubs and other garden furniture. They will use false adverts, claiming to sell hot tubs for great prices, or have stock even when everywhere else is sold out.

Only once you have paid for your new hot tub, the product never arrives, leaving you out of pocket. It’s important to remember that if you are looking to splash out on a hot tub, always purchase them from a reputable site that you recognise, and that if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

What’s the giveaway that it’s a fake giveaway?

Continuing on with the home and garden improvement theme brings us to how fraudsters are impersonating major retailers. Consumers have recently reported that B&Q is the latest shop to be used in spoof emails, unfortunately, promising free products and discounts. This is a common tactic used by scammers.

Playing on our DIY habits during spring/summer, this B&Q scam email, and other similar tricks, will offer recipients the chance to participate in a ‘loyalty programme’ with the retailer. In exchange for just ‘a minute of your time’, offering ‘free items’ such as a Dewalt Power Station or 170-piece Stanley tool set.

If you click on the links in these emails, you’ll be taken to a website where you’ll be asked to complete a survey. There may even be a countdown timer, to create an even greater sense of urgency to fill out the form! Then, you’ll be directed to fill in further personal details and pay £2 for postage, which is when the scammers steal your personal information and bank details.

B&Q are aware of the scam and have advised any customers receiving such emails to refer them to Action Fraud, delete the messages and not share them with any of their contacts.

The brushing scam baffling households

Have you ever had a mystery parcel arrived at your door – sent by an unknown person and not belonging to a neighbour? More than 1 million households in the UK could have been victims of such a scam known as ‘brushing’.

This technique is a marketing scam carried out by Amazon Marketplace sellers, to artificially boost their sales volumes and product reviews. By sending cheap-to-ship items such as phone cases, pet toys, beauty products, frisbees, and you name it, these scammers cheat Amazon’s competitive search ranking system, which favours products with high sales volumes and good reviews.

If you are a victim of this scam, a dodgy Amazon seller could have found your address from a range of sources. Amazon claims these sellers can find names and addresses from publicly available sources, but it is possible to source this information through the marketplace platform as a seller too. It’s also possible that these scammers can get customer data that’s been hacked, collected and resold online.

According to Amazon, if you receive a parcel like this, you don’t have to return the items and can do with them as you please. But it’s also concerning if you are shopping for items, as the highly rated products could be falsely advertised based on the results of this scam.

Top tips for avoiding scams and staying safe online

Scams can understandably cause you concern and worry, especially as fraudsters come up with increasingly creative and devious methods of obtaining your money and/or personal information. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful advice for avoiding and dealing with scams.

1. Never post your holiday plans online

Not only does sharing details of your travel plans or aspirations online alert burglars to when you’re not home, it can also tip-off online scammers, who use bot accounts to target accounts with particular keywords. These accounts could then try and contact your or tag you in the content, under the guise of an enticing holiday account.

We recommend you don’t post about your holiday details or plans online, at least not until you’re back home. And, if you want to make sure you’re leaving your home as secure as it can be, we have even more home security advice here.

2. Stick to trusted websites

If you are searching for a bargain this summer, whether it be for holiday deals, garden accessories or travel essentials, stick to trusted and recognised websites. Check to see if the site you’re browsing on has an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. SSL certificates are not the be all and end all of proving a website is authentic, but if a website doesn’t have one then it is a red flag.

A ‘safe’ website should have ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL (that’s the link at the top). It will usually show a padlock too. This is an extra sign that the communication between your activity and the website is secure. If a website URL starts with ‘http’ then do not trust it with your personal details.

The best option is to never click on a link in an email you receive unless you are 100% sure it’s genuine. A safer option is to open your browser and search for the website via Google.

In general, keep an eye out for anything suspicious such as misspellings or other inconsistencies in the URL. For another layer of protection, you can check to see if the company is registered on Companies House, to further check its legitimacy.

3. Report scams or suspicious activity

If you do fall foul of a scam, please don’t be embarrassed, just report it. You can report your scam via the Which! ‘Scam Sharer’ which helps them find new ways to support victims. You can report your experience here.

If you have received a suspicious email asking for payment, donation or log in details, don’t respond, simply forward it to

Now that you are more aware of some of the biggest scams that operate in the UK, please consider sharing this with your friends and family.

Sources: Which?, Citizens Advice

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