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Beware the insidious forms of Black Friday fraud

Most of the time, a cybercriminal’s motive is to steal a customer’s money, or personal information.

A man shopping online. Image by © Tim Sandle
A man shopping online. Image by © Tim Sandle

Black Friday is coming (or for those who have endured several weeks of sales adverts, it is already with us). Putting aside whether the bargains displayed from legitimate stores are really the bargains they seem; this time of the shopping spree is also a time when fraud practices are rife.

The latest set of warnings comes from Michael Dinich founder of Wealth of Geeks.  Dinich has told Digital Journal: “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.”

The risks of not doing so will costly, according to Dinich: “Most of the time, a cybercriminal’s motive is to steal a customer’s money, or personal information such as bank details, login credentials, personal address.”

This means measures need to be taken, as Dinich recommends: “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 any suspicious transactions.”

Dinich has provided examples of the primary scams that catch shoppers out.

Incorrect bank details scam

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

Dinich says: “If a retailer asks you to change your bank details with urgency and claims there is a risk of losing out on an order you have made, then you should be suspicious. Essentially, they are hoping to draw you into entering your bank details into a fake website that they have made to look real.”

He recommends: “Regardless of whether you believe your bank details are correct or not, you should contact the retailer directly with any order confirmation or information so you can receive legitimate information on your account.”

Hot deal scam

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

Dinich warns: “These items turn out to be illegitimate and it will result in you paying for a product you will never receive- and the scammer now possesses your payment details. If you come across an item like this, check the legitimacy of the product or the seller.”    

Phishing emails

Phishing emails are commonly used throughout the year, and Black Friday is no different.

Dinich forewarns: “Phishing emails are designed to trick users into disclosing sensitive confidential information. Therefore, it is important to not click on any links or pop-ups from sources that you are not familiar with. This also applies to website, including suspect URLs (ones with no ‘https.’ or locked padlock symbol on the bar) and websites with poor design.”

Fake tracking number scam

Fraudsters are sending fake package tracking notifications as an email attachment or link.

Dinich is concerned that: “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 normally directly in your inbox or accessed via the retailer’s website. Therefore, always visit the seller’s site to get accurate tracking information for your order.”

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.

With this Dinich cautions: “Scammers will replicate the retailer website’s URLs and layouts, which makes it extremely hard to spot whether it is fraudulent or not. However, majority 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 then send phishing messages and keylogging malware straight to your device.”

Consequently, Dinich recommends: “Before clicking on a so-called deal, go direct to the retailer’s official online website to see if that same deal is there.”

The Holiday season is one of festive fun for many; yet it is also a time when criminals seek to exploit people so they part with their money.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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