This time next week, the biggest shopping event of the year will see people looking to take advantage of Black Friday flash sales.
More people will be online shopping than ever before with sales expected to increase a third this year, according to Adobe Analytics, thanks to the ongoing pandemic.
However, shoppers have been warned to take care when looking for cheap deals, as fraudsters look to exploit households purchasing early Christmas gifts.
Scammers will take the chance to capitalise on Black Friday – with some retailers already offering deals – leaving people at the risk of being duped as they attempt to make panicked buys in order to ‘not miss out.’
Black Friday is a major shopping event of the year – something scammers take advantage of
Nearly half of 18 to 24 year-olds have fallen victim to fraud when shopping for Christmas, with 37 per cent losing over £100, a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by McAfee shows.
A further 74 per cent of millennials do not check whether Black Friday deals received via email or text are authentic and trusted before clicking.
The software security firm found that three quarters are concerned that the coronavirus means online scams will be more prevalent, with 46 per cent saying cyber scams become more prevalent during the holiday season.
Despite this, nearly half of people do not change their online activity as a result.
But how do fraudsters find their victims? Often it is through emails and online banners, using the same methods legitimate advertisers do.
Alternatively, some scammers study their potential future victims and analyse their online behaviour, which can be easily done if the victim is browsing the web unprotected.
To help shoppers avoid being scammed, This is Money reveals what to look out for when shopping on Black Friday and how you can spot fraud.
Some 74% are concerned that the coronavirus means online scams will be more prevalent
What to look out for this Black Friday
NordVPN, a private network service provider, listed five scenarios scammers will be looking to exploit in 2020:
1. Fake invoices: Paying an invoice that looks exactly like a utility one can easily happen when people make more transactions than usual.
This type of scam is called Authorised Push Payment fraud. The victims cannot reverse the payment once they realise they have been conned.
2. Bank notifications: Fraudsters mimic emails sent by banks, claiming that the purchases the victims have made couldn’t be processed.
Willing to reinstate the payment, the victims then click on the link and enter their bank credentials on a fake bank website that looks exactly like the genuine one.
3. ‘Your order has been cancelled’: These scams can go as far as ‘Sorry, we are out of stock, and your order has been cancelled. To claim your refund, please click here.’
Once the victim clicks on the link, they are asked to enter the details of the credit card to which they want to receive the refund and end up with their bank accounts being wiped out.
4. Lookalike pages: Amazon, eBay, Google — most users do not spot the discrepancies in the address bar as long as the website design looks legitimate.
They process the payment for the items in their shopping cart and end up robbed.
5. Renewing membership for the purchases you’ve made: Once you’ve finished with your purchases, scammers will send you an email claiming that your Amazon Prime subscription is due and the discount cannot be applied.
Therefore, if you want your items to get delivered, you have to renew the subscription. Ultimately, the victim gets tricked into disclosing their bank details.
Due diligence: 74% of millennials don’t check if Black Friday deals received via email or text are authentic
Tips to help yourself prevent fraud
While it is scary to think that fraudsters could be looking to scam you next week, there are steps you can take to ensure you are shopping safely online.
We have put together a list of top tips from McAfee and Action Fraud.
1. Use multi-factor authentication: By using two factor authentication you can double check the authenticity of digital users and add an additional layer of security to protect personal data and information.
2. Browse with caution: Using tools can help block malware and phishing sites via malicious links.
These can often be ad blockers that are free to download on to your computer and will ensure nothing untoward crops up.
3. Check website address: Checking a site URL can save shoppers from scams this Black Friday.
Fraudulent sites attempt to look as convincing as possible to seem similar to a website that you may often use.
Such methods include replacing a letter with a close looking one or missing out a letter that may be hard to spot.
Websites ending in .com and .co.uk are the most normal sites to purchase from – beware of .org and .net.
4. Check the website content: When searching for deals, the images of items can sometimes be misleading or very different from what the product actually is.
If you are purchasing from directly from a site as opposed to a third-party page, such as Amazon, check if the site is genuine.
Websites with counterfeit products will often look less professional, with poor quality photos. If there is a padlock by the website URL, it should be safe.
It is also important to pay attention to how the site is written, for example, if there are lots of errors, such as spelling, it may have been put together in a hurry by a fraudster.
5. Payment method: When purchasing online, you should be able to pay by debit, credit card or an online method like PayPal.
PayPal is often a safe option as scam artists will not be able to access your bank details.
You should never pay by bank transfer online as this could be difficult to recover. Take care to check out the returns policy as well.
Although Black Friday offers some amazing deals, if a usually expensive item is being offered at a large discount by an unknown website, it’s most likely too good to be true.
6. Take care with links in emails and texts: Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites, designed to steal your money and personal details.
Not all links are bad, but it’s good practice to check by typing the shop’s website address manually into the address bar of your browser, or find the website through your search engine.
7. Keep devices up to date: Make sure you install the latest software and app updates.
These usually contain important security updates that can protect you against fraud and identity theft.
Information can easily be found about how to install these updates from Apple, Microsoft and Google.
Even better, just turn on automatic updates so your device will update itself in future.
A spokesperson for Action Fraud, said: ‘Black Friday is one of the most anticipated sales events of the year. Unfortunately, criminals will see this as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers hoping to bag a great deal.
‘To protect yourself when shopping online, use a secure payment method, such as a credit card if you have one, as this will offer you more protection if anything goes wrong.
‘Always do your research before going through with a purchase and look up reviews of the website or seller you are using.
‘Don’t be taken in by deals that seem too good to be true – taking a moment to stop and think could help protect you and your money.’
How to spend wisely this lockdown
Atom bank, and Behavioural Psychologist at Durham University, Mario Weick, share their top tips to online spending wisely this lockdown.
1) Focus on a future goal: If you struggle to avoid the temptation of sales, one of the best ways to control your urges is to focus on a future goal that saving your money could lead to, whether that’s saving up for driving lessons or taking a step onto the property ladder.
2) Avoid shopping when tired or under the influence of alcohol: Browsing your favourite online sites when you’re super tired at the end of a stressful week of work or after a few glasses of wine can lead you to make purchases without fully thinking them through.
3) Reduce your exposure to temptation: One way to alleviate the pressure is to reduce your exposure and avoid the situation, if possible. Something like going for a walk could be a good idea.
If you’re tempted to make a large purchase, just a five minute walk in the fresh air or a ten minute workout video could curb your spending.
If you’re still keen on making the purchase when your heart rate returns to neutral, then it’s unlikely that your body is just craving the endorphins that shopping can bring.
4) Drop the ‘all or nothing’ attitude: When you’re trying to limit your spending, you can feel like going cold-turkey is the only answer. However, evidence suggests that this ‘all or nothing’ attitude is actually harder to maintain than a split-budget approach.
As PriceRunner suggests that sales this Black Friday will be up 14 per cent compared to last year, ahead of Black Friday, set yourself a clear goal of how much you can comfortably afford to spend, and create a list of the areas you are happy to spend on.
5) Spend for long-term happiness: Take the time ahead of Black Friday to really work out what you want to gain from your purchases this month.
Although treating yourself can give you a little boost of joy, make sure you’re not only shopping for the sake of it, or to experience the excitement of grabbing a ‘bargain’.
This chance to reflect on whether your purchase will bring you long-term happiness will give the brain time to digest properly and lower the risk of spending on things that only have a short-term impact.