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Black Friday scams: How to detect them

Wed Nov 27 2019 - 4 min read

Black Friday is a hotbed for scams! So before you rush off to grab some amazing deals, stay one step ahead of scammers with our guide on what to watch out for when shopping online.

1. A website requiring you to download an app

Imagine you're about to make an online purchase. Suddenly you're informed that the only way you can grab this 'exclusive Black Friday deal' is to purchase through the app. There's absolutely no reason to limit customers to buying through an app – especially since they're already on the website.

In reality, you're being directed to download a fraudulent app run by hackers – primed to steal your payment information. Even more worrying is that for the second consecutive quarter, fraudulent apps increased with a 20% spike. Most of these fake apps also appear in legitimate app stores according to research by RiskIQ.

How to spot a fake app

Inspect the name, description, and icon of the app. Fraudulent apps can't use precisely 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.

2. Fake websites

Fraudulent websites are run by con artists and are designed to lure you in and steal your card details. Such scammers are extremely cunning, not the kind to be underestimated; they're able to create a spectacular spoof of a website. But they can't squirm through every loophole – here's how to catch them out.

  • Check the domain name: Domains ending in .net or .org often belong to questionable organizations – so steer clear.

  • Check the URL: Trustworthy websites will always use HTTPS in their URLs — the S stands for “secure”. If you see only HTTP, that means the site isn't safe, and you should never supply your credit card details or other sensitive data.

  • Look out for poor English: Browse the 'About Us' page, read the text, and analyze it for glaring spelling errors and strange phrases.

  • Check the 'Contact Us' page: Any registered company trading goods or services will always provide a place of business, phone number, or email address. You can validate UK business addresses on Companies House, for example. Beware of sites that only offer a form to fill out and run as fast as you can if no such page even exists.

  • Check the companies shipping and return policy: You should always be informed of how and where to return a faulty item.

Last but not least, try to find some online reviews about the company across a variety of sources. Check the dates of the reviews — if they're all new and written in the same tone, remain 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 any 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 enter a grab bag or text a random code to 7792, for example. To a bargain shopper, it's too good to miss. In reality, your details will be collected, your device could be infected with malware, and the scam sent to your entire address book.

3 easy ways to avoid scams

  1. Shop through Apple Pay or Android Pay, or use a credit card: Credit cards offer consumer protection if you need to claim your money back. Apple and Android Pay combine biometrics and other digital safeguards, such as 2FA, to make sure your details are secure.

  2. Use a VPN if you're shopping on public Wi-Fi: Attackers are known to steal data that you send over the internet, like your card details and passwords. A VPN encrypts and hides your financial information when you make payments, so cybercriminals can't steal a thing.

  3. 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 a cool head this Christmas

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.

Monica Webster
Monica Webster
Verified author
Monica is the spirit of our content team. Her bubbliness and creativity sparkle her articles. She loves to investigate various security related problems and bring useful tips to readers. When she is not writing about technology, she explores art.
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