Black Friday sales are a great opportunity to bag a bargain. Cyber fraudsters are acutely aware of this.
With this in mind and with cyber fraud at an all-time high, £1.1 billion during 2016 according to accountants KPMG, consumer cybersecurity experts BullGuard have put together some very useful tips that will help you avoid the cybercriminals during the Black Friday sales.
Watch out for phishing emails!
As Black Friday approaches cyber fraudsters get seriously busy crafting phishing emails. These emails are endlessly creative and claim to be from well-known retailers, sports suppliers and even travel companies. The one thing they usually have in common is an offer that is too good to ignore. Except that’s exactly what you should do, ignore and bin them.
The aim of the fraudsters is to get you to click on a link. This can either take you through to a website that requests you enter all your personal information to get the offer. Or you will inadvertently download some malware that will steal your personal information. Either way, you will have been duped. You will have just handed your information over to a fraudster and you certainly won’t be benefiting from any offers.
Learn how to identify fake websites
Fraudsters create websites that look just like legitimate retailers and of course they have sales offers to die for. The only problem is that once you make the payment you’re likely to receive a deeply shoddy product and certainly not the one that has been advertised. However, in all likelihood, you’ll receive nothing at all other than a depleted bank account.
This is the way of the cyber crooks. Sometimes these fake sites are obvious; they’re littered with spelling errors and the design can be less than polished. However, that said, some are professional looking indeed.
To identify a fake site you need to check the URL address. Fraudsters will try and use a name that is as close to the original as possible but the site address will likely end in a .net or .org or something similar. If in doubt, search the site you are looking for and compare the URLs.
Check the website security
It should be a golden rule that you avoid buying something from a website that doesn’t have ‘https’ at the start of the URL. The ‘s’ stands for secure and signifies encrypted data. You should also look for a green padlock in the browser bar as this also symbolises the same thing. If either of these things is missing give the site a wide berth.
Guard your personal information
When you’re on a website and you receive a request to provide information you should never provide more than your name, address and phone number. When you’re about to make a purchase or check out of the site you shouldn’t have to answer any ‘security’ or privacy questions. This can be another way of conning a visitor out of their personal information. It’s relatively rare to come across this type of fraud as it is quite sophisticated and requires a lot of work on behalf of the fraudster to get the victim to this point during a website visit. But it does happen.
Social media and app scams
Every Black Friday a new type of scam usually appears. Most often on social media or sent from WhatsApp. In short, the message or post purports to be from a well-known retailer or organisation that offers a special promotion or discount hooking into the Black Friday sales. These ‘offers’ are simply a twist on the classic phishing mail. They try and entice you into clicking through to a link which is designed to scoop all your personal data so the fraudsters can carry out their nefarious deeds – in your name.
If you’ve got a credit card use it
Credit cards aren’t tied to your personal account. If you are unlucky enough to be defrauded the risk is minimised. Plus, credit card fraud, once its proven is largely refundable. Debit cards, on the other hand, are not really covered. It’s largely up to your bank’s discretion as to whether they refund you. They are tied to your bank account which could be dangerous with hackers using your debit card details to plunder your account.
Use good online protection
This may as seem as obvious as locking your front door when you leave home but you’d be surprised at the relatively large number of people who overlook this most fundamental of cybersecurity requirements. Good online protection will actually negate many of the threats listed above. It flags up suspicious websites, malware that is hiding in emails, as well as keeping out a whole host of nasty viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and other types of malware.
If it’s too good to be true, it most certainly is
Finally, overarching all of these tips is a simple golden rule; ‘If it’s too good to be true then it usually is.’ It always pays to be realistic when confronted with blindingly good offers such as flights to New York for £10, an iPad for less than £50, the latest smartphone for £20, laptops for under £70 and so on. Online retailers are in the business of making money. They don’t give stuff away; they assiduously watch what their competitors are doing and match their prices accordingly. As such they don’t throw goods at buyers, they calculate carefully their offers. They certainly don’t offer free money for simply redeeming a voucher as some Black Friday phishing ‘offers’ have claimed. So the more ‘outrageously’ good an online offer is the more likely it is that it’s a scam.