Black Friday and Cyber Monday, aka the biggest online shopping days of the year are here again. And while you are gearing up for a great bargain online, cyber criminals are creating Black Friday scams and hoping for a massive pay day. That’s why it is so important that you know how to shop safely online.

Black Friday scams include hacking shopping websites to steal information, creating fake websites and apps, and sending out phishing emails. Some of these use actual images from the brands they are imitating, so they look convincing. So how can you shop safely online even while you hunt down that amazing bargain?

Why is it so important to shop safely online?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about the bargains. Retailers take advantage of shoppers looking for great deals with promotions and heavy marketing. They create a sense of urgency – for a limited time only. Shoppers have learned to buy quickly so they don’t miss out, and they don’t take the time to verify that they are buying genuine items from a reputable seller. 

Cyber criminals create Black Friday scams to take advantage of this. They imitate the websites, promotions, and offers of genuine brands to create online shopping scams that lure shoppers into their traps. And they are pretty successful too. 

How to shop safely online this Black Friday

1. Look for the telltale signs of a phishing scam

Spam and phishing emails are a common Black Friday scams. Scammers mimic the promotional emails sent out by brands with their special offers. Many Black Friday scams involve links that trigger a download of malware to your device, take you to a fake marketplace to steal your money, or trick you into giving them your personal information.

Recognise a phishing email by the following signs:

  • Poor spelling or grammar in the email

  • Errors in the text that don’t quite add up

  • Weird looking sender email addresses with numbers and random letters rather than names and words

  • Hidden domain names, and shortened links

2. Don’t open email attachments

Genuine promotional emails usually provide all the information you need to know in the email, or include a link to their website with any terms and conditions. They will never include an attachment.

Online shopping scams use attachments as a way of uploading malware onto your device. If you see an attachment in your email it is probably an online shopping scam, report it as spam and delete it. 

3. Don’t click on links in emails

Hover your mouse over a link included in an email to see the web address it leads to at the bottom left of your screen. If you don’t recognise the website it leads to, or it looks different to how you are expecting it to look, trust your instincts, and don’t click on it.

4. Don’t reply to emails that ask for your personal information

Some online shopping scams require you to provide your name, address, and other information so that you can access a secret deal. This online shopping scam is aimed at obtaining your personally identifiable information (PII), which they can then use in identity theft or other scams. 

Never provide your personal information to someone you don’t know, or have no way of verifying their identity.

5. Don’t buy from unfamiliar websites

Many Black Friday scams involve creating new, temporary websites that look and feel exactly like genuine brand websites and which exist solely to catch unsuspecting shoppers. These websites will be online just for the week, and will be offline before you even realise it was a scam. 

These online shopping scams contain links that download malware onto your device, copy your credit card details, or even convince you to pay for an item that doesn’t actually exist and will never be delivered.

If you don’t recognise the brand, and you have never shopped from this website before, now is not the time to start. In order to shop safely online stick with brands and retailers who you know and recognise.

6. Check that the website is genuine

Look at the address in the browser bar. Some of the clues that these are online shopping scams include:

  • A misspelled or incorrect web address. Look for extra words, letters, or numbers in the company name, and unusual URL endings (.biz instead of .com)

  • Contact information for an unexpected country

  • Inconsistencies, spelling mistakes, small errors, and typos in the text

Look for the S in ‘https’ at the start of the URL, or the green padlock icon in the URL bar. Both are signs of secure sites.

7. Limit your financial exposure

Take the following steps to shop safely online:

  • Reduce the spending limit on your credit to avoid criminals spending heavily

  • Pay through a payment app (for example PayPal), so as not to reveal your credit card number

  • Pay by credit card, not by debit card or by bank transfer. Credit cards usually have inbuilt fraud protection, so that you can get all or most of your money back. Neither debit cards nor bank transfers have any form of protection

8. Don’t open pop ups and ads

Pop ups and ads that appear while you are browsing on genuine sites may lead to online shopping scams. If you are interested in what is being sold, check where the link leads to by hovering over it first.

9. Stop for a moment and evaluate the offer

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Think for a minute before jumping. Research the seller, and make sure they are genuine. Read reviews from other buyers.

10. Update your browser

Always make sure you use the most up to date version of your web browser (and other programs). This is because each update includes security fixes for the latest weaknesses. If you are using an old version of your browser, it increases the risk of a cyber criminal sneaking a malware onto your device.

Shop safely online, and grab those bargains

There are lots of genuine bargains available this Black Friday from all your favourite retailers. Follow these simple rules to ensure that you shop safely online and get what you pay for and not a whole lot less (or more)!

Stay safe