Residents urged to have a fraud-free Christmas

Reading Council is urging residents to stay safe this Christmas and avoid buying fake or dangerous goods or falling prey to unscrupulous loan sharks.

Council Trading Standards officers are warning of several pitfalls to avoid this Christmas. The team has received reports of pedlars selling counterfeit goods such fake perfume, aftershave and watches out of vacant shop units or shopping bags in Reading town centre. The goods have been confirmed as fake – so the ingredients are unknown and could potentially be unsafe.

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, make sure you look for any clues such as spelling mistakes or poorly attached labels on bottles.

Ahead of ‘Black Friday’ on 25 November, shoppers are also advised to avoid unsafe toys available online.

The latest study by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) of a group of 40 randomly selected toys available from third-party sellers via online marketplaces found that an alarming number of toys tested were unsafe for a child to play with. You can read the full report here.

Online shoppers are advised to carefully research sellers and ask:

  • Are you buying directly from an online platform or is it a third-party seller?
  • Are goods marked with a CE mark? These prove that they were manufactured in line with European safety standards.
  • Is the toy marked with an age restriction?
  • What do you know about the seller's reputation for selling safe goods?
  • Is the seller based in the UK?
  • Does the seller provide a name and address for you to contact?

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

The Council is also supporting the annual national anti-loan shark campaign #SleighNoToLoanSharks.
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. Families are being warned not to turn to predatory loan sharks charging excessive amounts of interest if they are facing financial hardship over Christmas.

The advice comes come amid national warnings that the scale of household debt will continue to rise as financial pressures on households leave many struggling to afford their monthly bills.

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 or fill in the secure online form to receive confidential support.

You can also find additional information and support online on the Stop Loan Sharks website. Live Chat is available on the website from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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