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5 Common Scams to Watch Out for This Black Friday

Black Friday, the day where 100's of shops offer huge discounts, is nearly upon us. Retailers use sales and one-day-only promotions to entice people into impulse shopping in the run up to Christmas. The problem is, however, scammers also use Black Friday to prey on customers already prepared to spend lots of money in the sales.

Below is a list of scams which you must be aware of so you don’t get caught out and defrauded this Black Friday.

1. Black Friday promotion phishing emails

Phishing emails are a particularly common way in which fraudsters attempt to steal personal details and banking information from victims. Over Black Friday, it’s also very common for retailers to inform their customers of sales and promotions via email too – so this is where criminals take advantage.

The scammers will take any shop that is likely to be taking part in the Black Friday festivities and they will create a fake email address including that retailer’s name. If this retailer has already produced and sent out Black Friday emails, it’s even easier for the scammer as they can simply just copy the email address (and change one or two letters) and the entire contents of the email so it looks identical to the real one.

Somewhere within in the email they will prompt you to click on a link which will take you to the retailer’s website where you can access the promotion. This link won’t take you to the real website, but a bogus one which has been created by the scammer to look almost identical. If you enter any of your personal information or bank details, these will be stolen by the criminal and used to commit identify theft or to steal money.

How to spot this scam:
Phishing emails are becoming particularly hard to detect as scammers are continuously improving their techniques, but there are a few things to look out for.

You should pay close attention to the grammar, punctuation and overall language used in the email. If there are lots of typos, errors or the whole thing is just generally badly worded or formatted, this is a sign that it’s likely to be a fake.

Also, look closely at the sender’s email address – not just the display name as the fraudster can put this as anything they want. If there are any unusual spellings, random letters or numbers, or anything that simply doesn’t look normal for a retailer’s email address, then you should be suspicious.
Don’t go to any retailers’ websites via email over Black Friday (or anytime really!) If you spot an email and you’re interested in the promotion, go to the retailer’s website directly instead of clicking on the link provided in the email. Don’t worry, any information regarding sales are likely to be all over the homepage of the website, so you won’t miss out if it’s genuine!


2. 'Problems with your order' phishing emails

If you’ve bought products from lots of different online retailers on Black Friday, you may occasionally lose track of what you’ve bought and when it will be delivered.

Phishing emails where scammers pose as a courier like DPD, UPS or FedEx, are very common all year round, but especially over Black Friday and the Christmas period when they know that people will be doing a lot more online shopping than usual.

These emails will state that there has been a problem delivering your order and you need to follow the link so you can either reschedule delivery, update your delivery information, or pay extra to have you parcel redelivered (or something similar.) Once you click on the link, you will be taken to a website which has been created by the fraudster to capture your personal and bank details.

How to spot this scam:
The first thing to check when you receive one of these emails is the sender’s email address. If it’s not a genuine email, the address will probably be a weird mixture of random letters and numbers and not really make sense at all. If it’s a genuine email, it would have come from the courier’s domain name.

As these emails are pretty bare and don’t contain much information other than a brief description and a link, they can be very difficult to determine – especially when you have a lot of orders on the way.
If you ever receive an email from a courier stating that there is a problem with your delivery, go directly to the courier’s website, or the retailer you have ordered from, and do not click on the link provided in the email. Most retailers will give you a tracking number once your order has been dispatched, so you can enter this to check if there are any problems.

Alternatively, go to the courier’s website directly and give them a call. They will be able to tell you if there’s anything wrong.


3. Black Friday competitions and prize draws

During the Black Friday promotions, some retailers may run competitions or prize draws to win gifts, cash or vouchers. A lot of these are genuine but, unfortunately, this is a trend which a lot of scammers have caught onto as well.

These fake prize draws will often be promoted on social media platforms, especially Facebook. The fraudster will lure people in by covering the advert in pictures of brand new iPhones, TVs or cash, for example. To be in with a chance of winning, you have to enter some personal details and answer some survey questions. In reality, there is no prize at all and the scammers are using this to collect your personal data. 

How to spot this scam:
Identifying these scams just takes a little common sense and caution. Websites that aren’t genuine will often have a lot of flashy pop-up adverts, promise that you’ll win the prize draw, be covered in pictures of brand new technology and cash, and just generally give you a bad feeling.

Look at the URL bar at the top of your browser to check for signs of encryption. If there is a green padlock icon, any data you enter in the website is safe. If there isn’t a padlock, or it says ‘not secure’, do not enter any details and leave the website immediately. Read this article to learn how to tell if a website is safe.
Never enter personal or bank details into a website you don’t fully know and trust. Not all websites and online competitions are out to steal your information, a lot of them are genuine. But it’s really important to do your research into the website and look for all the security signs before entering any data. If you are unsure at all, just don’t do it – the chances of you winning these competitions are so small anyway, it’s not worth it.


4. Black Friday giveaways – fake social media messages

Criminals are notorious for using social media messaging platforms to scam their victims. Once a scammer has hold of someone’s contact list on Whatsapp or Facebook messenger, they can send out messages to everyone on that list which appear the have come from the person they have hacked.

Over Black Friday weekend, scammers can send out messages which say that a certain store is giving away free pre-loaded gift cards to spend in the sales, or something of a similar nature. They will provide you with a link to follow which will take you to a website where you have to enter some personal details to receive the gift card. The link may also download viruses or malware onto your device and access your contact details so they can send the same message to all of your family and friends on your behalf.

How to spot this scam:
These scam messages will just appear out of nowhere and they will be very basic, just telling you to follow the link for a free gift card. There will be no friendly messages accompanying it which you might expect if this was genuinely being sent to you from someone you know.
If you get any messages of this nature, confirm with your friend, via another method and not in a reply to that message, to confirm whether it was them that sent it.


5. Online Bait and Switch

This is actually a scam performed by some genuine retailers – not criminals. It can be done in physical stores, but it mainly occurs online.

The ‘bait’ is an offer on a high-end product where the price is massively reduced more than any other retailer. The ‘switch’ happens later after you have bought the product, but then receive an email saying there was error and the wrong price was display on the website. Alternatively, you could get to the checkout, told the item is out of stock and then recommended a similar product which is more expensive.

Keep the receipt for everything you buy on Black Friday and if the retailer doesn’t honour the price, get your money back and don’t let yourself be pressured into anything you don’t really want to buy. It also makes sense to use a credit card, as you will be protected under the Consumer Credit Act if you have been scammed.


What to do if you’re a victim of Black Friday fraud

As soon as you become aware that you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud UK immediately, either through their online form or by calling 0300 123 2040.



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