DUBAI // Consumers planning to do their last-minute Christmas shopping online have been warned to beware of fraudsters.
As increasing numbers of people choose to avoid the crowds and shop on websites, currency exchange Western Union has warned them that they must be extra careful when sending cash over the internet.
The company advises against using money transfers to buy items on internet auction sites.
"This is the time of year when people are thinking of their loved ones and friends and buying and receiving gifts is commonplace," said Sobia Rahman, Western Union's regional vice president for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gulf.
"We want all our customers to have happy holidays this year and impress upon them the need to be extra vigilant and alert, not only when making transfers but also when purchasing online."
The company has released the "12 scams of Christmas" - a list of the most common ways fraudsters target their victims.
The list includes fake emails pleading for money because the sender has no credit cards or cash, requests for a relationship and dating, fake lottery prizes, rental property deals, employment offers, advance fee/prepayments, foreign business offers and even introductions from long-lost relatives.
Other scams include emails supposedly from foreign dictators, often recently in the news and offering to deposit funds into a bank account, or claims of over-invoiced funds and false charity appeals.
As part of Western Union's global consumer fraud education campaign, the company is urging people to stick to a simple set of guidelines to keep their money safe.
Never send money to people you have not met in person.
If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Always be sceptical of an offer where you have to pay money up front.
Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the information.
Never send a money transfer for online purchases.
Always buy goods and services from well-known companies.
"We tend to find people do most of their research after they have been scammed, which doesn't help," said Ms Rahman.
"I would urge anyone who has received these kinds of requests to get in touch with us first. We will be more than willing to help.
"The scams vary depending on the time of year. We will see many more false internet purchase offers where people are offered a product at a seemingly good price."
The fraudsters send out these emails to hundreds if not thousands of people and only need a few people to respond, she said.
Visit www.westernunion.com for more information.