Ready for a shopping spree? Think you’re getting the best deal? Think again. As everyone is looking for a chance to save money during the annual sales season, cybercriminals are locked and loaded with a diverse range of scams to cash in on the occasion.
We already have a detailed rundown of the worst and most common Black Friday scams, so today we’re giving you essential tips on how to avoid them.
1. The one letter that all secure sites have
If a site has HTTPS in its URL field and a tiny green padlock next to it, consider yourself safe, as the “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure”. But some sites will only use HTTP – beware of those.
To avoid entering malicious sites, you can configure your browser's security preferences to block potentially dangerous websites or downloads. Most popular browsers nowadays allow users to customize their security preferences according to their needs. You can configure your security settings in your browser’s preferences.
2. Pay with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or a credit card
These payment methods offer stronger consumer protection than that provided by debit cards, wire transfers, or cash. For instance, Apple Pay employs security features built into the hardware and software of your device to ensure secure transactions. Google Pay and credit card purchases are covered in Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which ensures legal protection if a company or seller you are buying from doesn’t deliver what it promised or goes bankrupt.
Be especially wary of any seller that requests wire transfers. Scammers prefer such transactions because there's virtually no way to reverse them once they are processed. Being smart and cautious about payment methods means you'll have more success claiming your money if things go haywire.
3. Use a password manager
If you are going to do most of your bargain-hunting online, prepare to create a lot of accounts and remember dozens of passwords. To make your life much easier and stress-free, use a password manager like NordPass, which will securely store and remember your passwords for you.
4. Update your software
Keep your apps up to date and make sure you have the latest software installed on your devices. Scammers always use weak spots in software to plant their mischief, but regular updates can help you stay secure, as developers issue bug fixes to eliminate security vulnerabilities.
5. Use a VPN app
A VPN is a one-click security cloak. It hides your internet traffic from scammers with state-of-the-art encryption that would take hundreds of years to crack.
6. Avoid suspicious pop-ups and redirect links
Besides being annoying, pop-ups and redirects could also be dangerous. Clicking them can send you to fake sites or prompt an unwanted malware download. And once that’s done, scammers are free to do almost anything they please with your device.
7. Watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals
The hype around Black Friday is huge. Scammers know it and try their best to cash in on the occasion. All too often, the internet gets flooded with seemingly impossible deals. A brand new smartphone for just $25? A pair of designer sneakers for $10? Sounds great, but remember — anything that seems too good to be true probably is.
Be careful not to let your guard down. Laughably low prices are a bait scammers use to lure you into their trap. Generally, Black Friday deals fall within the 20-30% off range.
8. Click the site's trust badges
Trust badges confirm that a security authority has verified the website. McAffee, VeriSign, and Paypal-Verified are some of the most easily recognized ones. You will normally find trust badges at the bottom of most websites.
However, you need to click on these badges to be certain they are valid. Trust badges are just images, and scammers can copy and paste them onto their fake websites. When you click on a genuine trust badge, it should take you to the site of the issuer (for example, to mcaffee.com).
In the rush of finding a bargain, safety may be the last thing on your mind, but please do stay extra vigilant. These precautions take just a few seconds, but it will take you days to reclaim your money. Worse still, you might have your details spread all over the dark web for years to come.
Happy shopping and stay safe!