As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, people worldwide will be trawling the internet and their local retailers to take advantage of the best deals. But they won't be alone in seeking to take advantage - scammers use the increase in spending, shopping, and urgency to lure potential buyers with Black Friday scams. This time of year brings a spike in cyber security threats, non-delivery and non-payment crimes, and online shopping scams as customers seek to snap up deals quickly.
In the United States (US), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that thousands of people fall victim to holiday scams every year. According to its Internet Crime Complaint Center's (IC3) annual report, scams cost the American people more than $10.3 billion in 2022. In the United Kingdom (UK), the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) revealed that British people lost £10.6 million to online scammers between November 2022 and January 2023. With these sobering statistics in mind, here are two common types of Black Friday scams to watch out for and how to protect yourself against them.
Black Friday scams
Phishing scams aim to trick potential victims into divulging personal information by clicking a seemingly safe link or submitting personal details. Scammers hope to convince them to hand over personal information - identifying details such as the victim's name, mother's maiden name or even bank details - because they can then use them for all types of fraud.
Scammers will contact potential victims pretending to be a large retail corporation, such as Amazon, with an official-looking email or SMS message. We've previously written in more detail about SMS scams, also called "smishing”, and how you can protect yourself against the "fraud wave"of text scams. The message may be a fake delivery notification or referring to an item that was never ordered.
In these instances, scammers aim to convince potential victims to click a link in the phishing email or SMS message, after which they'll be redirected to a fake Amazon website with a phone number to call. These scams are opportunistically timed to target people taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
If they do call the number on the fake webpage, the call generally isn't answered at first. Instead, the scammers will call back and ask for your card number, expiration date and CVV to "cancel the order."
Avoid the scam:
- Watch out for misspelt words and bad grammar in the email, and a sense of urgency or promise of refunds and cash rewards. If in doubt, go to the official source to contact the company for verification.
Non-delivery crimes and fake shopping websites
The term "non-delivery" scam (or a "purchase scam" if you're in the UK) was coined by the FBI and relates to items that you purchase but never receive. After paying for an item online, you don't get an email confirmation, tracking number or the package itself, and the seller disappears. These scams can be complex and believable operations, once one domain has been taken down another pops up to take its place.
Avoid the scam:
- Ensure you're using a reputable website. Experts advise anyone conducting a financial transaction online to make sure the site uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), an encryption-based internet security protocol that makes these transactions more secure.
- In the address bar, a site that employs SSL will begin with "https://”, rather than "http://”. They may also show a closed padlock symbol. We've written about this in more detail in a previous article, with more personal online security tips to protect your privacy.
- Be wary if asked to make a payment to a bank account located in a different country, and always use a regulated foreign exchange platform. Scammers can take advantage of the fact that it is more difficult to liaise with entities abroad once fraud is detected.
- It is also advisable to go directly to the website of the online retailer you're looking for Black Friday deals on rather than clicking social media or pop-up adverts, which can easily be faked.
When is Black Friday?
Black Friday refers to the day after Thanksgiving (which is always the fourth Thursday in November) in the US when retailers offer discounts and sales. It was initially focused on in-store sales in the US and has spread to the rest of the world in recent years. Cyber Monday occurs on the Monday following the Thanksgiving weekend and is focused on online sales. As shopping habits have increasingly moved online, this is reflected in the surge of online sales available on both days.
Are Black Friday deals worth it?
According to RetailMeNot, a website focusing on retail shopping and deals, some categories offer better deals on Black Friday than others. Electronics and kitchen appliances made its list for the best deals, whereas clothing, furniture and gaming consoles often see similar discounts at other times throughout the year. We have previously written about how you can maximise your savings on Black Friday using websites like camelcamelcamel.com. It shows you the price history of any product on Amazon, so you can gauge how much of a deal you may be getting.
Stay safe when shopping online this Black Friday
If you have been a victim of a Black Friday scam, or you suspect an email or SMS to be fraudulent, report it immediately. There are specific organisations set up for reporting fraud cases, for example, Action Fraud in the UK, Scamwatch in Australia and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in the US.
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This information is correct as of 14 November 2023. This information is not to be relied on in making a decision with regard to an investment. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent financial advice before making any form of investment or significant financial transaction. This article is purely for general information purposes. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.