Towards the end of November, the retail world loses its collective mind for a weekend. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are increasingly important annual dates for both online and offline retailers. £8.7 billion is projected to be spent in 2022 in the UK alone, with just under £5 billion of that spent online.
When you consider just how much money will be ringing through tills and being sent across the internet, it’s little surprise that it can be a real mecca for thieves, scammers and fraudsters.
It’s almost impossible to guard yourself 100% against being the victim of some sort of grift, but armed with the following tips, you’ll stand a great chance of avoiding the Black Friday con artists.
When shopping over the internet, it’s vitally important that you’re vigilant about the websites you’re using. Before entering any credit or debit card details, always double-check that the website is legitimate and safe.
Scammers will use what’s known as ‘impersonation sites’ where they replicate the look and user journey of a popular retail site and trick the buyer into thinking all is well. Except it’s not. The way to guard against this? Check the website address. If in doubt, open a new tab and navigate to the website independently. Be wary of links, especially those anonymously sent to you in emails or texts.
Always purchase via a credit card
There are all sorts of ways that fraudsters can trick money out of you. They’re coming up with them all the time. While you can be smart and do your utmost to stay ahead of the criminals, there’s no guarantee you’ll always manage it.
So what can you do? Well, just stay protected. Try to get into the habit of only purchasing items via your credit card. Credit cards offer much more consumer protection than debit cards. Basically, if you get scammed, you should be able to get your money back from the credit card company. That’s not guaranteed with a debit card and your bank.
Use a secured Wi-Fi
If you’re buying something online while outside of the house and away from the safety of your own broadband, proceed with caution. Whether you’re on your phone, tablet, or laptop, in a coffee shop, or on a train, be careful. Public WiFi hotspots are susceptible to hacking.
So if you’re using a public network, stick to generic internet browsing. Don’t log into your emails or social media accounts. And, above all, do not buy things using your credit or debit card. Even if it is heavily discounted.
Check your account for unusual activity
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday causing an uptick in purchasing, there’s a very good chance that your account may be quite active. But just because there are a few more transactions than normal, you need to pay attention to what’s coming out of your account.
Try to track your spending and always attempt to keep a rough idea of what your balance should be at any one time. That way you can identify if you’ve been the victim of fraud or not.
Some scammers rely on stealing small amounts of money from many, many people to go under the radar. So watch out for that.
Only buy from secure sites
The address bar in the top left corner of the website should be your initial security check the next time you visit an e-commerce site. Examine the page's URL. Is it HTTP or HTTPS…?
The difference is the ‘S’. Which stands for ‘secure’.
Any information you provide on the website, including your login, password and financial or credit card information, will be encrypted and secured from being intercepted or eavesdropped by unauthorised parties thanks to HTTPS. Basically, the likelihood of being hacked is much lower.
Research retailers independently before purchasing anything
If you see a great deal online, do a little sanity check before fishing your credit card out. While it’s important to back smaller retailers wherever you can, you should be careful to ensure that they’re legitimate businesses.
If you’re shopping on the website of a company you’ve never heard of, open up a new tab and Google them. Just check that they’re genuine.
Treat everything unusual with suspicion
You don’t want to end up a paranoid mess, of course. But around times of retail hype such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas, it can pay to be vigilant. Don’t be naive and make sure you always use logic when parting with funds or details. Your information is almost as valuable to scammers as your cash.
See something a little out of the ordinary? Don’t ignore the signs.
While banks and retailers employ a variety of safeguards to protect us as their clients with technology such as encryption, we must be all aware of how to defend ourselves from fraudsters who are increasingly focusing on our money around these big retail paydays.