IT is a Christmas tradition that can give low-paid workers a boost and leave us with a festive glow.

And it’s still the done thing to give a festive tip to the paper boy, postman, binman or window cleaner.

But the tradition of seasonal tipping has become complicated – with concerns over etiquette and even conmen.

Fraudsters in the county have already been exploiting generous residents – with one posing as a dustman to collect Christmas tips.

Residents in the Winchester area were warned earlier this month that a man wearing a hi-vis vest and claiming to work for the council’s waste contractors Biffa was knocking on doors saying it was his last collection before Christmas, before asking for money.

The council says it has told refuse collectors they face “stringent disciplinary action”, including dismissal, if they go round asking for tips – so the man was likely to be an opportunist preying on people’s generosity.

Hampshire Constabulary has advised that anyone who wants to give a tip should take a “common sense approach” to avoid giving money to conmen. A spokesperson said: “The advice is to give it to the person directly or drop it off at their place of work.

“If you know them personally write them a cheque or put the funds into some sort of format that cannot be used fraudulently by someone else.

“We’re advising a commonsense approach.

“It’s very generous of people to give tips at Christmas.

However, there are people out there that wouldn’t think twice about stealing an envelope of money left outside a front door – it’s easy pickings.”

Unions have said that low paid public sector workers are feeling the strain on their finances this Christmas – and tips are welcome.

Unison regional organiser Peter Terry said: “Refuse collectors haven’t had a pay rise for three years and in real terms their pay has fallen 20 per cent below what it was.

“They’re really feeling the pinch so if they get tips it’s very welcome.

“But we believe all public sector workers should be paid a decent salary for what they do, especially in the current economic climate.

“If people want to tip their refuse collector, school crossing patrol person, learning support assistant, dinner lady, then all these people are low paid and we wouldn’t stand in their way.

“With the kind of salaries these workers are getting it’s no wonder people feel they have to tip.”

But etiquette expert William Hanson has advised that, in fact, it is better manners to give people a present rather than money.

He said: “People do still tip, but what’s more common is to leave a bottle of wine and a Christmas card, rather than a specific amount of money.

“That way it feels more like you’re giving a present, rather than just giving money and it’s a great idea.

“This is the time of year when we think about other people – and sticking money in an envelope doesn’t require much thought – a present is a bit more personal.”