Darker black fridayBlack Friday and Cyber Monday are big business every year, with many people seeking bargains ahead of the holiday season. But scammers know it too and use the period of sales to target unwary consumers tricking them into parting with their cash through fake websites and false communications.
5 min read
The American tradition of Black Friday sales in November coinciding with their Thanksgiving holiday arrived in the UK some years ago and seems to grow each year. There’s hardly a retailer in the land that doesn't come up with some kind of offer or discount to tempt bargain hunters. In the UK, especially this year, money is short for many people and so those Black Friday bargains will be all the more enticing. But that also means that the scammers are out there plotting to relieve you of any money you have in any dark scheme that they can conjure up. It’s estimated that last year on Black Friday, people in the UK were scammed out of at least £15 million. And this year they’re baiting their traps once again as the sales day of the year approaches.
Black Friday, and its sister Cyber Monday both require great vigilance to make sure you’re aware of scams targeted at you.
Some Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams
Fake Order Scam
Have you ever received an unexpected text saying there’s a problem with your order? Chances are it’s a scammer ‘phishing’ to get you to click on a link. Except that you haven’t ordered anything. In the fake order scam, the criminals send the text messages or unsolicited emails. They want you to click the link they’ve sent, which leads to a page asking for your banking credentials or other sensitive information. If you enter the data, they can use it for bank scams and other frauds.
These emails are structured to appear like they came from a legitimate sender, like Amazon or eBay, but don't fall for it. Always check the email address behind what it appears to be. If the email address or phone number of the sender doesn’t match up with that of the company they’re claiming to be, it’s likely fake. And never click a link. Instead, navigate yourself to the particular website and check your account from there.
Fake delivery notification scam
Phishing attacks go a step further in this ploy, as scammers send fake delivery notifications by text or email. Usually, these notifications are disguised to be from Royal Mail, Parcelforce, DPD, UPS and so on.
Just like the fake order phishing scam, you’ll be invited to click a link to accept your delivery, where they’ll steal your personal data.
Fake website scam
Scammers set up websites that look remarkably like popular online stores and e-commerce sites. These fake websites look so like the official retailer that, to the untrained eye, they appear genuine and the average consumer can easily fall into a trap.
In this scam, you get a message claiming to be a company you’ve bought from. It may tell you that your payment has not gone through or that you need to update your payment information immediately. The scammer injects a sense of urgency, claiming that you’ll miss out on the deal if you delay. If you receive a message like this, it’s best to contact the company directly.
If a deal seems too good to be true on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it probably is. If using a genuine, reputable website when making online purchases, you should always receive an order confirmation and tracking information. But in this scam, you won’t, and of course, the package never arrives. When you attempt to follow up, the seller will have disappeared.
Gift card scam
In this scam, the fake online store will ask that you pay using a digital gift card. As gift card purchases can’t be tracked, it’s impossible to retrieve the money after a thief obtains your gift card details.
Browser extension scams
In the past, around Black Friday a plethora of "money-saving" browser extensions start appearing. The idea is that they help seek out Black Friday bargains. Some are genuine, but you must be cautious because some have been developed by scammers for phishing data as you enter it. Any legitimate Black Friday savings will be found directly through the retailers’ websites.
How to stay safe on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Avoid buying from unfamiliar sellers
The growth of independent retail websites means consumers face some uncertainty if they want to buy unique or novelty items from less well known brands. Always take the extra time to read reviews and verify that you’re dealing with a legitimate company. If you're buying from an unfamiliar retailer, take extra precaution and do your research such as using Trustpilot to check for genuine reviews and ScamAdvisor website to see if the url scores high or low on the legitimacy scale.
Beware of dodgy looking websites
Sometimes the scammers make very poor websites with dodgy links. Sometimes simple spelling errors or deliberate letter changes in company names can give it away.
Never click unfamiliar links
If you receive an unsolicited text message from a strange phone number, or a suspicious email about an order that you don't remember placing, don’t respond and especially don’t click on any link in the message. Contact the real company via a route that you initiate that you know to be genuine. The scammers will try and trick you by making things seem urgent, but that’s just a technique as part of their trap.
In summary, most of us don’t expect any problems while shopping online, but unfortunately, identity theft and financial fraud happens when you least expect it.
Always stick to trusted retailers. If you want to buy something from a new Shopify store or Etsy merchant, do your research by reading customer reviews. Also, check out what other customers are saying about the merchant on social media.
Keep your personal data safe.
One key thing to keep in mind is that even the most trustworthy websites and companies may get hacked from time to time, allowing hackers to steal your personal data that may include passwords and financial information. To prevent your data getting stolen from reputable companies, you can use Rightly Protect to get it completely erased from company databases. Rightly Protect will analyse what companies have your data - and you will be surprised just how many companies have your personal information, even companies you've never heard of. And then enable you to get it deleted in a single click, quickly and for free.
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Scammers in the marketplace shadows
Online marketplaces are a great way for buyers and sellers to interact and trade goods and services for money in a convenient, streamlined place with little or no friction. But of course, where there are transactions or systems to be exploited, you can bet a scammer has figured out a way to capitalise on it. And they are coming after you, so best be aware of how they’ll show up.
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Keep it secret. Keep it safe.
Many people, as many as 82%, reuse passwords on multiple sites. This creates a lot of vulnerabilities because if someone gets hold of one password, they could get access to all sorts of things from social media platforms to bank accounts. Take time to work out who has your password, minimise the risk and keep yourself protected.