In this guide, we are sharing some of the top 5 scams you need to be wary of, so you can avoid falling victim
Black Friday is among the major shopping days in America, being on Friday that follows Thanksgiving Day. Although it has never been recognised officially as a public holiday in the U.S., it is common for some employers to have the day off. For millions of people, Black Friday is the most opportune time for combined personal and Christmas shopping due to the good deals that the day brings. On last year’s Black Friday alone, Americans spent approximately $189 billion, while this year, 28% of American adults, estimated to be 72.4 million people, are expected to participate.
With a lot of people doing heavy shopping in a short period of time, Black Friday has always been a minefield for cybercriminals – trying to lure shoppers from legit sellers onto malicious sites and the like. However, the best way to outsmart these crooks is to understand (almost instinctively) their schemes and scams whenever you bump into them.
Phishing emails are among the oldest tricks scammers use to date, and sadly, a good number of Black Friday shoppers still fall for them. These fraudsters are fully aware that most retailers will be emailing their consumers more during this time than any other time of the year. So here are some types of phishing emails you should be critically aware of:
- ‘Account verification’ scam: Scammers will pose as your retailer and claim someone has tried to hack your account, or that your account needs updates for security reasons. This is always intended to steal your personal information.
- ‘Order confirmation’ scam: Imagine Amazon has confirmed your order, but requests you to confirm your order’s list by clicking a link provided. Scammers use this trick to have you fill in your personal info.
- ‘Problem with your order’ scam: This is a regularly used scam during Black Friday, commonly asking customers to reschedule their orders by clicking some links or taking some other action.
Scammers use mobile phone numbers and landlines to contact unsuspecting customers every other Black Friday. The caller then claims to be from Amazon and is reporting a problem with the customer’s account, then further requests the target to download a tool on their PC that will grant access to the caller to their device and fix the problem.
Once the caller gains access, they will demand another access to the customer’s online bank account to be paid for the service they have rendered. That is the point when the customer’s personal details are stolen.
Social media scams
It is not always all rosy during this time of the year in social media’s newsfeeds. Scammers understand the power of social media and take advantage by jamming the space with dodgy-looking deals.
They say you should trust your gut feeling, be wary of the too-good-to-be-true deals on social media which direct you to untrusted sources or obscure website domains. Scammers have perfected the art of mimicking well-known retailers, including Amazon.
Instant messaging scams
Have you ever received a suspicious-looking message with a link to a website you are completely familiar with, requesting you to click on it for an extremely good deal? This modern type of scamming customers is quickly replacing phishing emails, because instant messages are impulsive in nature, as opposed to emails where customers can delay responding, or simply treat them as spam.
The links are indeed fake, and clicking on them will lead to installing malware on your device. Crooks have become so efficient in replicating URLs and website layouts of retailers in a manner that it becomes hard to tell the difference between what is genuine and what is not.
Black Friday voucher scams
The wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed this type of scam requesting customers to click links. Fake vouchers coming from renowned supermarkets offering free shopping to families who are most hit by the pandemic is part of this scam. These voucher messages come with URLs that are not easy to differentiate from the real ones belonging to real stores in the market.
Stay out of harm’s way
Here is what you need to do to protect yourself and/or your loved ones from scammers this Black Friday:
- Trust your gut if the deal is too good to be true. Yes, Black Friday means nothing without discounts, bonuses and other good deals, but do not let that fact impair your judgment. Do not click on any link or voucher if you are not sure about it. The golden rule is to follow up with the particular offer or deal on the real retailer’s website, it must be there if it is legit.
- Your personal information is yours, period. There is no way a legitimate company will ask you for your personal information such as passwords or bank details through a text message. Unless they prove their legitimacy in one way or another, do not be so willing to share any personal information with anyone anywhere.
- Social media channels are landmines, so take extreme caution. Scammers find social media as a convenient playfield where unsuspecting victims can be found in numbers. Before purchasing anything on social media, find out more information about the product’s page, including its product reviews from real social media users, number of followers, product’s length of stay, and any other finer details that prove its legitimacy.
- Make payments on secure websites or domains only. Before making any online payment on any e-commerce store, confirm if the address bar has a little padlock symbol. In addition, ensure the website’s URL starts with https:// – which essentially means your details are encrypted.
You may also want to:
- Update your browser and security software in your device. As simple as this may sound, making sure your installed programs are up-to-date protects you from malicious links, and even blocks them before tempting you to click on any of them. However, common sense still remains your first line of defense against scammers at all times, do not let your guard down.
- Ensure your internet connection is secured. Scammers find it easy to monitor your online activity through unsecured public networks, and will redirect you to a malicious website in a heartbeat. Just make sure you have the most reliable and secure VPN in your device.
- Guard your passwords with everything you can. Just like your reputation, passwords are everything when doing anything on the web. In fact, most people have one or two passwords for almost everything in all their devices – emails, social media accounts, video conferencing apps. If scammers get hold of your password for any of your accounts, just know they will try it elsewhere and see if it’s the same in use. An old trick is to get a good password manager out there, or simply have different passwords for different spaces – you only need to remember them.
This year’s Black Friday falls in the middle of an ongoing pandemic and there can’t be a more perfect time for scammers than this. There is every reason to be more vigilant and cautious when shopping this season than ever before, so do not let these fraudsters spoil your holiday spirit or use it against you.
Let’s stay alert and enjoy the holiday!