The Christmas shopping rush has well and truly started now, and it’s such an exciting time of year, but North Yorkshire trading standards colleagues want to remind you to think carefully.

Before you part with your money this Christmas, be suspicious of any “too good to be true” offers or prices, particularly those online or on social media.

Products that are offered from websites that are not based in the UK may find buyers face a heightened risk of receiving a product that does not meet UK safety requirements, it may be counterfeit, or just might not turn up at all.

Be careful when buying from online auction sites, or online classified advertisements, including posts on social media selling sites, and watch out especially for “bargains” at unrealistically low prices. They might turn out to be counterfeit or poor-quality goods. Fake goods are not only poorly made, but in some cases can be dangerous as they are not subject to the same stringent tests as genuine items and do not meet the safety standards required in the UK.

Counterfeiters often steal pictures and formatting from real websites to make their websites look legitimate, so don’t be fooled by a professional-looking website.

A person using a standing desk near a  Christmas tree

Take particular care when buying electrical goods to make sure they meet safety standards. Beware of buying products from non-UK websites that may supply products that are not to UK standards. This could mean you end up with a non-UK two-pin unearthed plug. Even some fairy lights have been found to be dangerous and have had exposed live wires and non-UK plugs that would allow access to live parts when plugged in.

Listings on social media and auction sites include electrical goods such as phone chargers, earphones and phone accessories that include potentially dangerous chargers. There are also listings for fake branded clothing, perfume, cosmetics and jewellery, including earrings and bracelet charms, which contains dangerously high levels of heavy metals.

Check the spelling on the social media selling posts or sponsored advertisements. It may just not look right and could have a spelling mistake that the reputable business would never have made.

A complainant recently told us of a scam she fell victim to while in the hairdressers. A seller called into the salon selling “overstocked” perfume at knockdown prices. The seller offered the testers – which incidentally were the genuine perfume products – to try, then sold bargain priced boxes of the perfume to the staff and customers in the salon. When she got home and opened the box, the perfume turned out to be fake. By that time the seller was long gone down the road.

It might seem like a bargain and a harmless way to get what you want for less, but the cost of buying fake goods this Christmas can put you and your loved ones at risk of fire hazard, electric shock, injury or a child choking on small parts in toys.

Finally, did you know… profits made from counterfeit sales can go on to fund larger criminal operations, including organised crime, people trafficking and even terrorism. Criminals don’t care about safety standards. Only buy from reputable businesses and websites that you know and trust.