With Black Friday signalling the start of the manic rush to Christmas, opportunistic scammers could be out to trick innocent shoppers.
The annual sale event, popularised first in the United States, sees UK spending increase by billions in a matter of days.
From high street stores to independents – and not forgetting online retailers – it can be hard to find a shop not introducing incredible Black Friday deals.
But with so many bargain-hunting shoppers surfing the web, the opportunity for an easy win means an increase in cybercrime is inevitable.
Here, Stephanie Hammond, Director at Beatons Group, explores how to stay safe online this festive period.
What is Black Friday?
Originating in the USA, Black Friday always falls on the fourth Friday in November – one day after Thanksgiving.
It traditionally signals the start of the Christmas season, with shops slashing prices to cash in on consumers normally off work for the day.
It has since grown in the UK, with the event lasting through to Monday, now known as “Cyber Monday”.
Forecasters have predicted Black Friday shoppers will spend a record amount over the weekend, mostly through online channels.
How are scammers targeting shoppers?
With so many shoppers desperate to get their hands on a bargain, scammers are targeting consumers showing record-low prices for must-have products.
This could be by advertising deals on this year’s hottest gifts – like the much sought after Playstation 5 – at prices lower than the big brands.
But criminals are also using phishing tactics via email to get their hands on log-in and card details.
Big name retailers are sure to showcase their discounts and promotions in your inbox through marketing emails.
Cyber criminals will utilise a similar method but are also known to email promising refunds and coupons, with links instead directing you to dangerous websites.
Pent-up demand and supply chain issues are certain to see scammers repeat their usual tricks.
How can you avoid the cyber criminals?
Following simple steps can ensure you have a stress-free Christmas away from the threat of cyber criminals.
When receiving emails or looking at an advert, look out for spelling mistakes. It is rare a big brand will include a spelling or grammar mistake in their promotional material.
Likewise, it is always good practice to check the email address of the sender. Scammers commonly use similar email addresses to their legitimate counterparts, typically changing letters to numbers or using a different domain.
If an advert looks too good to be true, it probably is. Should you not recognise the name of a retailer, look for reviews on websites such as Trustpilot.
Hovering over any web links to reveal the URL can also show you whether a link is legitimate or not. If an email or advert tells you it will direct you to a big brand, but the preview says otherwise, it is more than likely a scam.
The best advice is to stop and think before clicking any link.
Credit card users have greater protection from scams under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, for goods over £100.
Should goods never be delivered, customers can claim the money back from their card provider, who are deemed jointly and severally responsible for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a trader.
If you think you have been a victim of a scam, contact Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 1232040.