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Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, with millions looking for bargains and deals on their favorite products.
However, it is also a prime time for scammers who want to take advantage of the holiday frenzy and steal money, information, or goods from unsuspecting shoppers.
You want to score deals, not lose money to fraudsters. This article will outline simple tips to help you shop safely. We’ll cover signs of common Black Friday scams and ways to steer clear of them.
Let’s dive in!
Read on for more details on how to shop safely this Black Friday and avoid falling victim to the scammers lurking in the holiday deals.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing over $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, and online shopping was the most common category of complaints.
To protect yourself from falling victim to Black Friday scams, you must be aware of the common types of fraud and take precautions before, during, and after your shopping spree.
1. Non-delivery Scams
Picture this. You purchase an item online, eagerly wait for it, but it never appears.
The seller spins a tale about it being out of stock, delayed, or lost and stubbornly denies a refund or tracking details.
Worse yet, the seller might not exist at all, and you’ve fallen for a fake listing or website.
2. Gift Card Scams
Imagine being promised a discounted or free gift card. Exciting, right?
But there’s a catch – you’re tricked into divulging your personal or financial information.
You might be asked for a fee, your credit card information, or complete a survey for the elusive gift card. Or, they could sell you a used gift card with zero balance.
3. Fake Charity Scams
Here, you’re approached to donate to a bogus charity or cause. Scammers can craftily imitate real organizations or design fraudulent websites and social media accounts.
They play on your emotions, creating a sense of urgency to donate via cash, wire transfer, or gift card.
4. Fake Order Scams
This one’s a classic. You get a message supposedly from a well-known retailer or delivery service confirming an order you didn’t place.
That tricky link in the message directs you to a fake website, inviting you to update your payment info or download malicious software.
5. Fake Website Scams
You land on what seems like a legit retail website, but it’s a trap to steal your data or infect your device.
These mock websites skillfully mimic the real ones, using similar domain names, logos, or designs, often revealing themselves through spelling errors, low-quality images, or suspicious pop-ups.
6. Fake Delivery Scams
You receive a message claiming there’s an issue with your package, appearing to be from a delivery company.
The message tricks you into paying an extra fee, giving out your personal info, or clicking a link that leads you straight to a fraudulent website or malware.
So, how can you outsmart these scams and shop safely on Black Friday? Stay tuned for the following tips.
Do Your Research – The Crucial First Step
Before even adding items to your shopping cart, you must ensure the website’s legitimacy. You’re probably familiar with major players like Amazon, Best Buy, or Walmart, whose robust security protocols make for a safer shopping experience. But what if you stumble upon a lesser-known site with an irresistible deal?
1. Stick to Legitimate, Reputable Sites
Small businesses and specialty stores are often where you’ll find unique, heart-touching gifts. But, as you venture into unknown online shopping territories, your scam radar must be active.
Look for markers of credibility – Does the site have a secure checkout? Does it boast professional web design devoid of typos or other errors? How responsive is their customer service?
2. Check for “https” URLs
When entering any personal information, confirm the site uses “https” protocol instead of just “http”. The “s” stands for “secure”, indicating the website encrypts your data, making it harder for any nefarious cyber thief to get their hands on it.
A padlock icon in the address bar or a trust seal from an organization like Norton or McAfee further bolsters this security.
3. The Power of Customer Reviews
While product reviews provide invaluable insights about the item you intend to buy, site reviews tell a tale of the seller’s reputation.
Platforms like Trustpilot or Better Business Bureau are gold mines of customer experiences.
Steer clear of sites with no reviews, excessive positive reviews, or reviews that seem suspiciously vague or duplicated.
4. Verify “Deals” using Price Tracking Sites
Scammers often inflate their prices before events like Black Friday, making their subsequent “discounts” look attractive. But you can counter this tactic using price tracking sites like CamelCamelCamel or PriceSpy.
These handy tools let you verify if that “unbelievable deal” is indeed a genuine steal or a cleverly disguised regular price.
5. Understand Return and Refund Policies
Lastly, before purchasing, acquaint yourself with the site’s return and refund policies. Transparency in these policies is a hallmark of a reputable seller.
So, if you come across unclear or unreasonable terms – think twice. It’s a sign to retreat and take your business elsewhere.
Protect Your Information – Online Shopping’s Golden Rule
Whether you’re splurging on Black Friday deals or merely browsing, protecting your information should be a priority.
Cybersecurity extends beyond avoiding suspicious sites; it’s about fortifying every step of your online journey.
1. Beware of Public WiFi
The allure of free WiFi in your favorite coffee shop is strong. Yet, completing purchases on such networks exposes you to potential hackers lurking around.
As tempting as it may be, refrain from shopping online on public WiFi. Stick to your secure home network or use a reliable VPN.
2. Embrace Virtual Credit Cards and PayPal
Virtual credit cards and PayPal provide a buffer between your actual banking details and the retailer. Virtual credit cards generate a one-time card number, restricting data access to the current transaction or merchant.
On the other hand, PayPal serves as a secure go-between, keeping your card information invisible to the seller.
3. Avoid Saving Payment Information
Most retailer sites offer to save your card details for ease of future purchases. As convenient as it seems, refrain from accepting this.
Retailer sites, even reputable ones, can fall prey to hackers, risking your saved data. While it may take a few extra moments, enter your payment details manually each time.
4. Create Unique, Complex Passwords
Unleash your creativity in password creation. Use a mix of alphabets, numerals, and special characters.
Each shopping site should have a unique password, ensuring a breach on one site doesn’t compromise your other accounts.
Employ a trusted password manager to store these safely and make your life easier.
5. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
For an additional layer of protection, enable two-factor authentication wherever available.
This security measure confirms your identity through a second device or code, adding an extra hurdle for anyone trying to access your accounts unlawfully.
In the online shopping battlefield, it’s the second line of defense you’d be glad to have.
Verify Special Deals and Links
Amidst the rush of grabbing the best deals, Black Friday often sees a rise in scams. False offers and dubious links proliferate, trapping the unwary.
To avoid becoming a victim, it’s important to scrutinize everything that seems like a fantastic deal or an easy shortcut.
1. Dissecting Deals Too Good to Be True
An iPhone for $100? A designer handbag for 90% off? These deals may sound irresistible, but they often hide a nefarious reality.
Scammers utilize such outrageous deals to lure in victims. Always scrutinize deals that seem implausible.
Carefully read the terms and conditions, and don’t forget the fine print. If the deal still seems shady, it’s better to walk away.
2. Directly Approach Retailer Sites
In this digital age, getting redirected to websites through links is easy. However, these paths can often lead to deceptive sites that harvest your data.
Whenever you decide to shop online, especially during sale seasons, it’s safer to manually enter the retailer’s URL or use trusted bookmarks. A few extra keystrokes could save you from a potential data breach.
3. Assess Social Media Offers
Offers popping up on your social media feed may seem convenient, but they could be bait from a fake account. Scammers often impersonate reputable brands or personalities, offering jaw-dropping deals.
Always ensure the account is verified – look for the blue checkmark next to the account name. A closer look at their posts can also reveal inconsistencies in grammar or spelling, a classic sign of a scam.
4. Stay Vigilant of Phishing Attempts
Phishing scams often masquerade as emails or texts from retailers or delivery services. They create a sense of urgency or panic to trick you into revealing personal information.
Remember, never click on suspicious links or attachments. Genuine retailers typically won’t ask for sensitive information via email or text.
If you’re uncertain, contact the company directly through their official channels.
Watch for Suspicious Activity
Even after snagging the best deals, the process doesn’t end there. Post-purchase vigilance is crucial to safeguard your financial health.
Unfamiliar charges, strange messages, and sudden balance changes are potential warning signs. Let’s dive deeper into what you need to do.
1. Regularly Checking Bank and Credit Card Statements
Frequent reviews of your financial statements are key to spotting unfamiliar charges. After making your Black Friday purchases, monitor your bank and credit card statements closely.
Alert or notification features offered by your bank can make this process easier, notifying you of every transaction in real-time. With these tools, you’re less likely to miss any suspicious activities.
2. Dealing with Unrecognized Purchases
Getting a notification or a call about a purchase you don’t recall making can be concerning. Scammers might attempt to deceive you into sharing your personal information or paying an unnecessary fee.
Treat such messages with skepticism. If in doubt, directly contact the supposed sender through their official contact information. Don’t rely on the details provided in the suspicious message.
3. Swiftly Responding to Potential Fraud
In case you spot any dubious activity, time is of the essence. Contact the retailer and your bank or credit card provider immediately.
Whether it’s canceling the order, disputing the charge, or freezing your account, prompt action can prevent further damage.
Keep in mind effective response hinges on your proactive monitoring. So, stay vigilant before, during, and after the shopping frenzy.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
It’s a hard truth to accept, but even the most vigilant shoppers may fall victim to scams.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, immediate and informed action can help limit the damage and set you on the path to recovery.
1. Notifying Involved Companies and Reporting to Authorities
Your first action should be to inform all entities associated with the fraudulent transaction. That includes the retailer, delivery services, and financial institutions involved.
They could provide valuable assistance or evidence for your case. Additionally, file a report with your local police department. Having an official record aids in clearing your name and potentially catching the fraudsters.
2. Placing a Credit Freeze for Protection
Initiating a credit freeze is a vital step following a scam. This action bars unauthorized individuals from opening new accounts under your name.
All three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – can facilitate this service. A credit freeze is a strong deterrent against identity misuse, providing an extra layer of security.
3. Continued Monitoring and Identity Protection
Remember that your journey doesn’t end once the initial actions are taken. Ongoing vigilance is crucial.
Continue to keep an eye on your accounts and financial statements. Consider utilizing identity protection services, such as LifeLock or IdentityForce, to aid in your defense against further identity theft attempts.
Seeking Assistance from Identity Theft Recovery Services
Should the burden of recovery seem overwhelming, know that there are professionals out there ready to help.
Identity theft recovery services can guide you through the steps of reclaiming your identity and restoring your financial health.
Organizations like the Identity Theft Resource Center or National Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network can connect you with these invaluable resources.
Keep Your Guard Up After Black Friday Too
Scammers indeed focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday when shoppers let down their guard looking for deals. However, fraudsters prowl all holiday season long for victims.
Maintain consistent caution, security precautions, and awareness of scams from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Pay special attention to charity and gift giving scams that emerge in December.
While scams do spike around Black Friday, being an informed shopper can help you score deals without getting defrauded.
Take a little extra time to research unfamiliar sites and verify special offers. Use secure payment methods and keep a close eye on your accounts.
With proper awareness and precautions, you can get great holiday deals online or in stores without money ending up in the wrong hands.
Stay vigilant this season, but don’t let fear of scams stop you from crossing off your gift list at Black Friday prices!
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