It is safe to say that Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year. With retailers offering huge discounts on products in-store and online, you’re probably looking to get your hands on the latest deals on products you love. However, the increase in online shopping comes with an increase in cybercrime. This means a rise in the threat of falling victim to cybercriminals who are looking to take advantage of those looking to snag a quick bargain. It is important to stay safe and protect your personal and financial information while shopping online during Black Friday.
To stay safe while shopping online during Black Friday, there are a couple things you can do to stay protected. Firstly, it is important to only shop on secure websites. Look out for the padlock symbol in the address bar, as this is a huge indicator on whether the website is using encryption to protect your information or not. Additionally, make sure to use strong and unique passwords for each website you shop on, and consider using a password manager to keep track of them. You should also think twice before clicking on unsolicited emails or texts offering a large discount. A good thing to keep in mind is that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of shopping online during Black Friday while also protecting your personal and financial information from cybercriminals.
Spot and Avoid Black Friday Scams
When shopping online during Black Friday, you need to be able to spot the ways cybercriminals try to deceive shoppers during this time:
Phishing Email Scams
Phishing emails are a scammer's favourite technique, especially at this time of year. Scammers use phishing emails or create fake websites to trick individuals into believing it’s a legitimate retailer. This is to try to persuade you into handing over your sensitive information. To avoid falling for a scam, make sure to:
- Only shop on trusted websites.
- Look for grammatical errors. Legitimate companies usually proofread their emails carefully. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors, it's likely that the email is a scam.
- Double-check the website's URL to make sure it is legitimate.
- Avoid clicking on links in emails or text messages, and instead, visit the website by manually searching for it.
- Scammers often use language that creates a sense of urgency. This is to make shoppers act quick. Be careful of emails that demand immediate action.
- Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true.
- Check the email address of the sender. If it looks suspicious or unfamiliar, do not click on any links or download any attachments.
Identity theft is another risk of shopping online. Hackers may try to steal your personal information, such as your name, address, and credit card details. To protect yourself from identity theft, make sure to:
- Use strong passwords for your accounts.
- Avoid using public WiFi when shopping online.
- Check your bank statements regularly.
Like we mentioned above, scammers often use fake websites that look legitimate so that shoppers are more likely to hand over their personal information. To avoid falling for a fake website scam, make sure to:
- Check the URL of the website. If it looks suspicious, avoid clicking on the link.
- Manually type in the retailer’s name and go directly via search engines instead of through direct links.
- No contact information: Legitimate websites usually have a contact page with phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses. If you can't find any contact information, it's likely that the website is a scam.
- Fake websites often have poor design and low-quality images. If a website looks unprofessional, it's likely to be a scam.
- Check for an SSL certificate. If the website doesn't have one, do not enter any personal information.
During this time, closer to Christmas, there are many charity scams popping up to tempt you to donate money to fake charities. Many people feel the need to help others during this time due to the feel-good nature of the joyous times. To avoid falling for charity fraud, make sure to:
- Double-check the URL. The URL will look very similar to the charity's actual site, however, if you compare the two, you will find many differences.
- Check that the charity is registered via the gov.uk website to see if it’s legitimate or not.
Identifying Reliable Retailers
When shopping online during Black Friday, it's important to identify reliable retailers to avoid falling victim to scams and fraud. Here are some tips to help you identify trustworthy retailers:
Look for Secure Websites
Before making any purchase, check if the website is secure. Look for the padlock icon in the top left corner of the website and make sure the URL starts with "https". This showcases that the website uses encryption to protect your personal and financial information. If you don't see these indicators, it's best to avoid the website.
Reading reviews from other customers can help you determine if a retailer is reliable. Look for reviews on the retailer's website, as well as on independent review sites such as Trustpilot. This will help you understand the overall reputation of the retailer you’re looking to shop from. Avoid retailers with many negative reviews or no reviews at all.
Check for Contact Information
A reliable retailer should have clear and easily accessible contact information. Look for a phone number, email address, and physical address. If you can't find any contact information, it's a red flag that the retailer may not be trustworthy.
Verify Discounts and Deals
Be cautious of retailers offering discounts and deals that seem too good to be true. Scammers often use these tactics to take advantage of shoppers. Verify the discounts and deals by checking the prices on other websites and comparing them. If the discount seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Secure Payment Methods
When shopping online during Black Friday, it's important to use secure payment methods to protect your financial information. Here are some options to consider:
Credit Card Use
Using a credit card can be a secure way to make purchases online. Credit card companies offer fraud protection, which means you won't be held responsible for unauthorised charges made on your account. It's important to regularly check your credit card statements for any suspicious activity and report it immediately.
Reliable Payment Gateways
Reliable payment gateways, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet, are becoming increasingly popular for online shopping. These services allow you to securely store your payment information and make purchases without having to enter your credit card details each time. They also offer additional security features, such as two-factor authentication.
Prepaid Gift Cards
Prepaid gift cards are another option for secure online shopping. These cards can be purchased with a set amount of money and used to make purchases online. They offer the advantage of not having to provide any personal financial information. However, it's important to note that some gift cards may have expiration dates or fees associated with them.
Create Strong Passwords
In the world of online shopping, you rely heavily on passwords to keep your personal information safe. It’s typically your first line of defence against cybercriminals which is why it is important to have strong passwords to protect your personal and financial information from cybercriminals. Here are some tips to create strong passwords:
- Create strong and unique passwords. Avoid using generic words or phrases such as ‘Password’, and never use personal information such as your name. LastPass’ Free Password Generator tool is a quick and easy way to create unique and secure passwords.
- Make your password long. The longer the password, the more secure your account is.
- Use a different password for each online account. This way, if one password is compromised, your other accounts will still be safe.
- Have trouble keeping track of unique passwords? Use a password manager to generate and store strong passwords. A password manager can also help you remember all your passwords without having to write them down.
- Change your passwords regularly to protect your accounts that hold sensitive data, especially after a data breach.
Use Secure Networks
When shopping online during Black Friday, it's important to use a secure network. To determine whether the network you’re using is secure or not is by checking if it is encrypted and password protected. This makes sure that cybercriminals are less likely to get their hands on your data.
Avoid using a public network as they are often unsafe, especially since cybercriminals on the same network can easily access your sensitive data. Instead shop from home so that you can shop online without having to worry about personal information being compromised. If you need to use a public WiFI network to shop online, invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
If you need to use a public Wi-Fi network to shop online during Black Friday, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your internet connection and routes it through a private server, which means that your personal information is less likely to be intercepted by hackers or cybercriminals. A VPN can help encrypt your IP address, shielding you from hackers who are on the same network as you.