The online frauds surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have become a major concern recently. With so many people making purchases, it is easy for scammers and hackers to use some of their sophisticated techniques to defraud unsuspecting customers. Let’s look at the scams you might encounter during the upcoming shopping season and how to avoid them.
Top 5 online shopping scams to be aware of
The five most common online shopping scams mostly focus on either impersonating famous retailers or social engineering tricks, which usually end up in phishing attacks that aim at stealing your online identity. Being able to spot them is crucial in such an intense period when everything around you creates a sense of urgency and even fear (of missing out, in this case).
- Fake retailer scam. During the shopping craze, it’s hard to identify all the luring offers and where they come from. You can easily find yourself on a site with a URL that almost precisely copies the address of a well-known and trusted retailer. The site would look very similar to the original one. However, it would be used to steal your login credentials, bank card information, or even money, should you place an order through it.
- Fake advert scam. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of adverts that promise unrealistically great deals. Those might either look like legitimate retailers (as described above) or try to develop their own branding. They might either make you pay for goods you’ll never receive, steal your payment info to use in another fraud, or do both. Before entering sensitive information, check if the URL is legitimate and if the reviews on trusted review sites are positive.
- Fake order scam. Scammers might send you emails with either an order they claim you made or a tracking number for some of your orders. Those letters are usually sent from ‘typosquatting’ email addresses that are quite hard to spot, especially during the tense online shopping period. If you download a file attached to such an email or follow a link in it, hackers might inject malware into your computer and steal your login credentials or payment information.
- Social media scam. During holidays, influencers on social media—Instagram in particular—often offer free giveaways, and scammers might create a similar giveaway pretending to be a famous person. In such posts, they include links that lead to phishing sites used for stealing users' personal data. Another scam commonly seen on social media is fake adverts that lead to similar malicious sites or cloned stores of well-known retailers.
- Fake charity scam. During the holiday season, ensure that the money you donate does not go to scammers that set up a fake charity to exploit the heightened charitable spirit. Legitimate charities never urge you to donate ‘quickly’ or ‘act now’. Fake charities also ask for donations in gift cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrencies, and other methods that make the funds you send them almost impossible to track and reclaim.
Tips for Black Friday shopping
It’s hard to spot all the scams that exist. Yet, several useful tips will help you keep safe during the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Shop only with legitimate online retailers. Check its reviews and ratings if you want to shop with a site you've never seen before.
- Look for a padlock symbol in the address bar, confirming that your connection is secure and cannot be used to steal your personal data.
- Do not use public Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can compromise that. If you still need to use it, turn on a VPN—it will encrypt your internet traffic, making it impossible for fraudsters to intercept it.
- Use two-factor authentication to additionally confirm your identity via email notification, smartphone, PIN, fingerprints, or facial recognition.
- Don’t save your bank cards with any online store. When buying something on the internet, make sure the site you are using is reliable and secure.
- Don’t follow suspicious links or download attachments from suspicious emails. Double-check the info you receive with the online store if you need clarification on whether the email address is legitimate.
Following the tips above, you will be quite safe during this year's holiday season. However, don’t let the sense of urgency and FOMO take away your vigilance— fraudsters, hackers, and scammers might take advantage of that.