Residents urged to be scam-smart this Christmas

Residents are urged to stay safe as the countdown to Christmas begins and avoid buying fake or dangerous goods or falling prey to illegal lenders.

Reading Council is again supporting the annual national anti-loan shark campaign, #ShopSmartNotShark. Loan sharks are targeting vulnerable people seeking credit and trapping them into a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates and threats of violence especially over the festive period and afterwards.

Residents are urged to learn how to spot the signs of predatory loan sharks, who often charge excessive amounts of interest if they are facing financial hardship over Christmas:

If you are concerned a friend or family member might be being taken advantage of by a loan shark, contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or fill in the secure online form at to receive confidential support.

You can find out whether a money lender is authorised by checking the register on the FCA website at

Council Trading Standards officers are warning of several pitfalls to avoid this festive period. The team have again received reports of pedlars taking advantage of the Christmas shopping crowds to sell counterfeit goods such as fake toiletries, watches, and tech in Reading town centre. Many of the goods have been confirmed as fake – materials and ingredients are unknown, and could potentially be unsafe.

Additionally, this time of year many pop-up stalls and pedlars are circulating in the area, often selling counterfeit alcohol. If you see alcohol sold at a bargain price, ensure sure you look for any clues such as spelling mistakes, or poorly attached labels on bottles.

Residents are also being warned of the dangers of cheap, unsafe toys which continue to flood the UK marketplace. Those shopping for children’s toys this Christmas are advised to check to ensure products meet safety standards.

Advice from the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) recommends shoppers carefully research each seller and ask:

  • Ensure the consumer protection ‘CE’ or ‘UKCA’ mark is visible
  • Are you buying directly from an online platform or is it a third-party seller?
  • Is the seller based in the UK?
  • Does the seller provide a name and address for you to contact?

The OPSS also recommend shoppers carry out safety checks on any toys they buy:

  • Always read the warnings and instructions
  • Avoid toys with small parts and look out for strangulation hazards
  • Check the toys are suitable for children and are age-appropriate
  • Check for button batteries – ensure they are safe behind a screwed-down flap
  • Check for product recalls – find details at

For consumer advice or to report unsafe products call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Last updated on 14/12/2023