Love it or loathe it, Black Friday has fast become the biggest shopping event of the year, with customers spending hundreds of millions of pounds both in store and online.
Interest in Black Friday – imported from the US – has grown rapidly, with online sales up 46 per cent annually last November, suggesting millions more shoppers are getting involved.
But those looking for a bargain in the run-up to the event on Friday 29 November, or indeed after during ‘Cyber Monday,’ will need to be alert when shopping.
A quarter of Britons have experienced attempts at fraud during these sales, new data claims.
Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year with millions shopping in the sales (stock image)
Despite the large number of customers potentially being scammed, only 14 per cent said they think about whether a website appears fraudulent when shopping in these sales, according to TSB – potentially worried about missing out on a bargain.
The research was conducted by Opinium, based on a survey of 2,003 people.
It is believed that 30 per cent of Britons will shop in the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales – and it is imperative that consumers are vigilant about any suspicious deals.
At peak shopping moments, scammers are likely to try and take advantage of the quick ‘fire-sale’ nature of Black Friday, with fake websites, identity theft and phony adverts.
There has been a 17 per cent increase in fraud offences over the last year, according to the latest annual results for the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
To help consumers protect themselves this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, This is Money, with help from TSB and Citizen’s Advice, have put together advice on how you can stay safe when shopping online.
1. Check the website name
Are you desperate to get that ‘must-have’ coat, shoes or electrical item and you find one in stock? Ask yourself if its too good to be true.
Think: Do you recognise the website? Trust the retailer? Is the price just too tempting?
While many prices will be significantly discounted, if you see an item that looks ridiculously cheap, make sure to check you are buying from a verified website and that the retailer is recognisable.
Remember – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Citizens Advice says more than 13,000 people reported issues with online marketplaces in 2017, being hit by an average loss of £215, suggesting that an increasing number of customers are being duped online.
It also revealed that calls about problems with purchases on online marketplaces have increased by 35 per cent over the past four years.
Be alert: One advert on social media, claiming to offer big name brands with a 90% discount
2. Look out for dodgy deals on social media
Many will have seen the posts on social media doing the rounds – for example, a Facebook page will post a picture saying it has big name brands on sale with massive discounts applied for Black Friday.
However, most, if not all, of these pages should be avoided as they are fraudulent.
Caught by an online scam?
Have you been caught out by an online shopping scam during past Black Friday or Cyber Monday events?
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Many customers have found, once they enter their card details, that the ‘seller’ will have their money and no products will be sent in return.
If you see one of these posts on social media, it is best to avoid altogether as it is unlikely to be genuine.
The above scam clearly caught one user out.
A quick check online reveals that the ‘.ga’ domain is for websites registered in the African country of Gabon.
It is extremely unlikely you’re getting an Ugg boot or Canada Goose coat bargain shipped from there.
3. Be vigilant of scam emails
Fraudsters could make the most of the opportunity to email you the best Black Friday offers. However, fraudster’s websites can be identical to real ones.
Fraudsters will list products for sale that don’t exist. Take a second to think: are all the images copied from a web search? Are you being asked to make a payment outside of the auction site’s normal process?
Treat an electronic payment like you would cash – don’t send one to somebody you don’t know and trust. Always use a trusted website and stick to their recommended payment process.
Look for the padlock symbol in the address bar and check the domain name to ensure there’s an ‘s’ on the end of ‘http’ which indicates the site is secure.
Consumers are advised to avoid making purchases on public Wi-Fi on the Black Friday sales
4. Avoid purchases on public wi-fi
Many of us do more online shopping versus traditional means, but make sure you’re protecting yourself and avoid making purchases using public wi-fi.
Fraudsters are able to compromise public wi-fi relatively easily, so it’s worth eating into your own data and staying safe.
Fraudsters also use messaging apps like WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, to circulate links to ‘money off’ vouchers or discounts.
Sometimes they require you to share them with 10 people before they become activated.
Black Friday is a minefield of offers, and more often than not these links are just a ploy to infect your device with malware or make you part with your personal information.
Above everything, stop and think before you click. Fraudsters thrive on stressful or rushed situations, because we’re less likely to think things through before making a payment or surrendering our information.
Always give yourself enough time to make a good decision – and don’t give a fraudster an easy ride.
5. Be careful not to end up with a counterfeit item
Be wary of spelling or grammar mistakes, and companies that don’t provide an address.
Also seek out reviews of the seller from other buyers as these can help you decide whether or not you trust the seller.
If there is a lot of negative feedback from other people, it’s a sign that something’s not right.
If you’re worried that something you’ve seen online might be a scam, you can contact you can get advice with a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0300 330 3003.
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