As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the globe, the majority of Black Friday deals will take place online. So, before you rush off to grab some fantastic deals, check out this guide on what to watch out for when shopping online, and stay one step ahead of scammers.
1. A website requiring you to download an app
Imagine you're about to make an online purchase, when it suddenly turns out that the only way to grab this exclusive deal is to make a purchase through the app.
There's absolutely no reason to limit customers to buying items via an app, especially when they're already on the website. In reality, you're being tricked into downloading a fraudulent app run by hackers and primed to steal your payment information. According to research by RiskIQ, most of these fake apps also appear in legitimate app stores.
2. Spoofed websites
Fraudulent websites are run by con artists, who design them to lure you in and steal your card details. These scammers are incredibly cunning and shouldn’t be underestimated. But they can't squirm through every loophole. Here's how to catch them out:
Check the URL. Trustworthy websites will always use HTTPS in their URLs, where the “S” stands for “secure”. If you see only HTTP, the site isn't safe. Avoid supplying your credit card details or other sensitive data on such websites.
Look out for bad grammar. Browse the web page, read the text, and look out for glaring spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Legitimate websites put a lot of time and effort into polishing their content.
Check the “Contact Us” page. A registered company trading goods or services will always provide its place of business, phone number, and email address.
Do your research. Try to find online reviews about the company across a variety of sources. Also, check the dates of the reviews: if they're all new and written in the same tone, it’s reason enough to become suspicious.
3. A delivery issue with your purchase
Are you one of the millions of people with an Amazon Prime account? If you're planning on buying something on Amazon this Black Friday, beware of follow-up emails you might receive after you've made your purchase. Scammers will send bulk emails to Amazon users, claiming to be from UPS, FedEx, or Amazon itself. It might read something like this:
“We're sorry, but your package couldn't be shipped. Please click here to re-arrange delivery or update your method of payment.”
As soon as you enter your payment details — well, you can guess who'll be cashing in.
4. Free Black Friday gift cards
Another common scam involves winning a loaded gift card from big retailers like Amazon or Walmart. The terms often require you to text a random code. For a bargain shopper, this is too good to miss.
In reality, your details will be collected, and your device could be infected with malware. The scam might then be sent to your entire address book.
5. Phishing scams
In a phishing attack, the victim receives an email or text message tricking them into providing their payment details, personal data, or other sensitive information. Typically, the scam will take victims to a spoofed website, where hackers will collect the data.
If you take the phisher’s bait, know that scammers can use your stolen data to create fake online profiles, get access to your bank accounts, ruin your credit score, or even steal your identity. To protect yourself from phishing, thoroughly check the sender’s address, analyze the email for spelling errors, and refrain from clicking on any links.
4 easy ways to avoid a scam
Shop with Apple Pay or Google Pay, or use a credit card. Credit cards offer consumer protection in case you need to claim your money back. Apple and Google Pay use a combination of biometrics and other digital safeguards, such as 2FA, to secure your details.
Use a if you're shopping on public Wi-Fi. Attackers are known to steal data like your card details and passwords when you send over the internet. A VPN encrypts and hides your financial information when you make payments, so cybercriminals can't steal a thing.
Inspect the name, description, and icon of the app. Fraudulent apps can't use the same name as the real app, so they'll replace o's with 0's, SwiftKey with SwiftKeyboard, or WhatsApp with Update WhatsApp. If you see the same icon more than once, be alarmed. A fraudulent app cares little for copyright laws and will proudly mimic an icon to trick you.
Use complex passwords for online shopping sites. Since these sites hold your name, address, and payment details, they're a goldmine for hackers. Protect yourself with a strong password to give hackers a run for their money.
Keep track of your online accounts and credit card reports, and make sure there are no inconsistencies during the holiday season. Be on the lookout for suspicious purchases, especially minor ones, as scammers tend to start small before going all in.
Keep a cool head this season
Who doesn't love a bargain? E-commerce is built on adrenaline-inducing tactics, designed to encourage impulse buys. Constant reminders about 'limited quantities' and countdowns can have us making irrational decisions, which could have dire consequences on our security. Take a few minutes to check out the legitimacy of a company, message, or email by following our quick tips above. Trust your instinct and remember: if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.