For retailers, this time of year is the perfect opportunity to reach consumers with must-have Christmas bargains. For cyber criminals, it’s the perfect opportunity to reap an undeserved slice of the pie.
Last year, online consumers shelled out $9.6 billion over the Black Friday weekend. But, unfortunately, Black Friday scams are becoming incredibly diverse.
From malicious applications representing 1 in 25 Black Friday-themed apps, to 1,452 blacklisted URLs impersonating top brands with fraudulent Black Friday offers - the once bargain-themed occasion is becoming the scammer's highlight of the year.
So, if you’re thinking of getting involved with Black Friday or Cyber Monday, make sure you remember these 10 steps to staying safe.
#1 If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is
We’re all a sucker for a bargain. But whereas most of us know exactly where to draw the line between great savings and, well, complete and utter tosh, some of us can be a little more susceptible to having the wool pulled over our eyes.
These unrealistic offers usually come from a phishing email or targeted social media promotion and are mainly offered by retailers you’ve never heard of. Make sure you avoid clicking their links and, if you feel the need to clarify the offer, go directly to their website via a search engine.
All in all, if you see a promotion that is considerably better in value than others, do some research before going any further.
#2 Make sure the website is safe to use (look out for HTTPS)
You may have taken action on tip number one and visited their website. Only problem is, this doesn’t mean the deal is 100% legitimate.
A way of ensuring whether or not the website is the real deal is by checking that they are using HTTPS at the beginning of their URL. This secure connection will give you peace of mind that whatever transaction takes place between you and the site is exclusively restricted to only you and the system.
#3 Don’t use public Wi-Fi when making purchases
Public Wi-Fi is everywhere nowadays, but where convenience prospers, security suffers. Sure, the temptation to use a free alternative to our much-treasured (and pricey) mobile data is huge. But when it comes to online shopping, using public Wi-Fi leaves you exposed to cyber-theft.
Make sure to stick with 3G/ 4G when making online purchases. If you’re shopping from the comfort of your own home, ensure that the network your browsing on is protected by WPA2 and its enable encryption settings.
#4 Make sure your computer and devices are updates
We know, updating apps and devices can seem like a drain of time and energy, especially when notifications pop up nearly every day - but there’s a good reason for this. Security loopholes are constantly being discovered and used by cyber criminals. These, albeit annoying, updates actually act as a vital way of blocking them.
Keeping on top of updates can actually be easier than you might realise, with the ability to manually set them for times when you know you won’t be needing your device/ laptop. So to protect from potential Black Friday software threats, run a few updates.
#5 Use strong passwords and don’t expose your login credentials
With card details and other sensitive information being regularly stored on different e-commerce sites these days, the physical loss or theft of a phone or tablet can result in some pretty big losses. That’s why password security is more important than ever.
Make sure you’re not reusing the same password on all e-commerce sites, and also ensure that the passwords themselves include a range of letters, numbers and special characters. If you use a lot of e-commerce sites, look into a password manager tool to stop you from forgetting your login details.
#6 Avoid sites that ask you to install software prior to purchasing
If you visit a website that asks you to install software that will allow you to purchase things from them at bargain prices, don’t do it. This can open the door to you downloading a ton of nasty infections, not to mention parting ways with personal information.
If you want the item they’re offering, pay more for it from a website you know is reliable.
#7 Don’t trust WhatsApp messages offering free vouchers
WhatsApp scams are nothing new. Recently, however, cyber criminals have gotten a lot smarter in their approach, especially with this month’s huge rise in fake retailer vouchers that appear to come from trusted personal contacts.
Many victims have already lost hundreds of pounds as a result of submitting their financial details to these scammers - not to mention reports of malware infections. Long story short, if you get a message like this, delete it! Read our recent blog on what this scam looks like and how to avoid it.
#8 Don’t fall for the “Click and Receive” scam
Chances are, you’re probably going to order something online to be delivered to you - and that’s exactly what this ‘spray and pray’ scam relies on. These emails will ask you to click on a link and enter your details (including financial information) to rearrange a delivery date.
But, as you’ve probably guessed, these people have no idea of what you’ve ordered and where you’ve originally ordered it to. So, be suspicious if you get an “arrange a new delivery date” email that doesn’t contain your address/ purchase, and raise a flag if it asks you for financial information.
#9 Remain sceptical of fake customer reviews
When making a purchase on sites such as Amazon or eBay, it’s always a good idea to look at previous buyers’ experience. After all, you don’t want to shell out on an iPhone X, just to be left empty-handed and a thousand pounds out of pocket.
It can be difficult to spot fake reviews, but some can be given away by simply being way too similar to a number of other comments. Focus on grammar, spelling mistakes and whether the reviews have all been submitted in a short space of time. If your suspicions are raised, we recommend reporting them.
#10 “I’ve just fallen for a scam!” - Here’s what you should do
If the day does come when you’ve fallen for a scam (and it happens to the best of us!), make sure your first step is to immediately call your bank to ask them to try and stop the payment. Banks will only refund customers who have been defrauded on their credit card or debit card, or a transaction has been actioned without their authorisation.
Unfortunately, banks are not responsible for reimbursing customers who have been deceived into making payments. But if action is taken swiftly and there are funds remaining in the cyber criminal’s account, your bank may be able to claw it back if it requests an indemnity.
Be sure to give this blog a share to help friends and colleagues avoid Black Friday Scams, or, if you're wanting raise awareness of online scams and bad security habits in the workplace, make sure you download your free security awareness poster campaign.