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The Season For Cybercriminals

Black Friday/Cyber Monday is one of the most significant shopping events in the calendar worldwide, and with a rise in online shoppers hunting for a bargain before Christmas comes increased opportunities for cybercriminals. 

 At Wealth of Geeks, personal finance experts warn shoppers who rush to grab the best deals to be extra vigilant of circulating scams that appear year after year. 

Michael Dinich, founder of Wealth of Geeks, says, 

“Fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever as technology evolves, and during this busy shopping period, it provides the perfect opportunities to exploit the increased volume of transactions and potentially catch shoppers off guard.  

“Most of the time, a cybercriminal’s motive is to steal a customer’s money or personal information such as bank details, login credentials, and personal address. 

“Therefore, to protect themselves, shoppers should take steps to secure their online activities, such as using strong, unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, being cautious of phishing attempts, and regularly monitoring their financial statements for suspicious transactions.” 

Below, Wealth of Geeks shares 10 of the most common Black Friday/Cyber Monday scams that catch shoppers out and how to spot them ahead of the big weekend.

1. Incorrect bank details scam 

One of the most common is scammers emailing shoppers to say their billing information is incorrect and needs to change immediately, or the order will be void.  

If a retailer asks you to change your bank details with urgency and claims, you risk losing out on an order you have made; you should be suspicious.  

Essentially, they hope to draw you into entering your bank details into a fake website they have made to look natural.  

Regardless of whether you believe your bank details are correct, you should contact the retailer directly with any order confirmation or information to receive legitimate information on your account. 

2. Hot deal scam 

While Black Friday weekend is full of hot deals, they advertise certain popular items on fake websites that are generally hard to find.  

These items are illegitimate, resulting in you paying for a product you will never receive- and the scammer now possesses your payment details. 

If you encounter an item like this, check the product’s legitimacy or the seller through the Business Bureau, which will verify. 

3. Phishing emails 

They commonly use phishing emails throughout the year, and Black Friday is no different. 

They design phishing emails to trick users into disclosing sensitive, confidential information.  

Therefore, it is essential to refrain from clicking on any links or pop-ups from unfamiliar sources.  

It also applies to websites with poor design and suspect URLs, with no ‘https.’ or locked padlock symbol on the bar. 

4. Fake tracking number scam 

Fraudsters are sending fake package tracking notifications as email attachments or links.  

Scammers use these tactics to infect your device with malware or direct you to phishing sites. 

Legitimate retailers will never send tracking numbers via an attachment.  

They are usually in your inbox or accessed via the retailer’s website. Therefore, always visit the seller’s site for accurate tracking information for your order. 

5. Instant messages 

Often, you may receive a suspicious-looking message with a link to a well-known website, urging you to click to secure a great deal. 

Scammers will replicate the retailer’s website’s URLs and layouts, making it extremely hard to spot whether it is fraudulent. 

However, most of the time, the link is fake, and clicking on it will invite an intrusion of malware on your device, making your personal information vulnerable. 

Once they have encouraged people to click, they will send phishing messages and keylogging malware to your device. 

Before clicking on a so-called deal, go directly to the retailer’s official website to see if that same deal is there. 

6. Fake charity scam 

Especially during the Christmas season, there will be a surge in charity donations, and scammers know this.  

Therefore, they set up fake charities and use high-pressure tactics to get you to donate.  

Often, you can spot a fake charity because they only accept payment through gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. 

You can check if a charity is legitimate through the  Fundraising Regulator’s online directory. 

7. Fake social media profiles 

Social media profiles are simple to impersonate, as all a scammer must do is copy their logo, branding, hashtags, content, etc. 

This mode of communication can trick customers into giving personal information or data or selling counterfeit products. 

You can often spot if a social media website is fake through aggressive advertising campaigns.  

Always check if there is an alternative official social media account that is verified or has more followers before clicking on the one you have come across. 

8. Fake product reviews 

Fake Amazon product reviews are usually over-packed with technical jargon and feature unusual phrases. 

However, it is, in fact, humans who are promoting these in exchange for payment from the product manufacturer.  

There are ‘review exchange’ clubs online, generally on social media sites, where sellers on sites like Amazon will offer goods in return for overly generous comments- often extremely misleading ones. 

Therefore, to get a more accurate product review, compare reviews of the same product on several other official retailers before you purchase. 

9. ‘Grey Market’ distribution 

During Black Friday, brands will use various channels to market and sell their products. 

However, when a product falls out of a brand’s authorized network, they will no longer have control. 

When this happens, unauthorized sellers may not correctly display, package, handle, or ship it. Therefore, returning or exchanging the product will be a lot more complicated. 

10. Gift card and discount scams 

Gift cards are a popular gift at Christmas, which is why scammers will offer gift cards at a discount, but these cards are either empty or stolen.  

You should only buy gift cards from reputable sources, such as the retailer’s official store or website. 

Similarly, discounts and coupons received via email or social media that they advertise as huge discounts can also be void. Therefore, verify the coupon’s source to ensure its validity before using it.