How to Avoid Black Friday Scams Online

Black Friday attracts crowds, and crowds attract scammers, and that means you need to take extra care when shopping online over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. There’ll be people out there keen to relieve you of more money than you’ll save on a TV set or a gaming console.

The following precautions apply whatever the time of year, but it’s worth reminding yourself of them every time a serious holiday season comes around. In the rush to get gifts sorted, it’s all too easy to miss a warning sign, or get complacent about online security.

Update All Your Software

The good news for us as users is that Microsoft, Apple, Google, Mozilla and the other big names in tech are now very adept at spotting scams as they happen, whether that’s phishing emails (designed to lure you on to a fake shopping or banking site) or unauthorized logins on your accounts.

To make the most of the security built into Windows, macOS, and your favorite browser, ensure you’re running the latest versions across the board, which means you’re running the latest security patches—if you’ve been putting off updates on your phone or your computer, then get them done ahead of Black Friday.

These updates are so important that it’s now very difficult to postpone or opt out of them, and you’ll be regularly reminded if your software is out of date. If you do have a laptop that’s too old to run the latest versions of Windows or macOS, avoid using it if possible—you’ll be safer shopping on your phone, as long as it’s running the most recent Android or iOS updates.

Be Wary of Email and Social Media Deals

You’re likely to be inundated with special offers over email and social media this Black Friday, but be wary about clicking through on deals that come from suspicious sources (stores you’ve never shopped at for example). Always check that the link has sent you to the website you were expecting to reach.

people taking a coupon book as they enter a department store

Stay Inside and Enjoy Black Friday With These Shopping Tips

The biggest shopping day of the year can be intimidating. This is how to make the most of it.

There’s no hard and fast way of 100 percent guaranteeing you’ll never get caught out by a dodgy link (apart from just ignoring them all completely), but you can minimize the risk: Check the social media account or email address sending the link is genuine, head to the site in question in a separate browser window to see if you can find the same offer advertised, and be sure the offer you’re looking at is the one that was promoted.

If your browser is right up to date, as we mentioned above, dangerous links should be blocked before you reach them, but we’d still recommend being wary. You’ll see some great offers advertised over social media and email, but no discount is worth the risk of exposing yourself to online scammers.

Do Your Research

Wherever possible, stick to the big name stores online: Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and so on. All the major players have robust security procedures in place, so the chances of getting hacked are smaller. Still, if you’re buying from any site, always check you’re on the store web portal you think you are by checking in your browser’s address bar.

We’re not saying you should never shop at smaller, unknown web outlets, but make sure they’re using HTTPS technology (indicated with a padlock in your browser’s address bar). Look for contact details, an office with a physical address, and reviews left by other users (Trustpilot can be helpful here). See if they’ve got presences on Twitter and Facebook—and whether those accounts are actually active.

Debit and credit card issuers will usually protect you against fraud—check their policies online if you’re not sure about yours—but nevertheless keep an eye on your bank accounts throughout the Black Friday weekend to make sure only the amounts you’re expecting to be debited are going out.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired