Happy Black Friday
You might be shopping today or throughout weekend, going through Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, know that scammers are counting on this activity and will be trying to cash in on unsuspecting shoppers.
Online sales exceeded $20 billion last year during Black Friday and Cyber Monday but this year due to inflation and a rocky labor market, budget-conscious shoppers seeking holiday sales are juicy targets for criminals.
Here are the top 5-signs that you (or someone you know) are being baited by a scammer:
1. Suspicious Links Scammers will try anything to get you to click a malicious link. It's an easy way to distribute malware to your device or send you to a fraudulent website to trick you into giving up your personal information or passwords to your financial accounts. Links might appear in an email, text message or targeted ad on social media.
Tip: Never click a link and put your username and password in something that you didn’t initiate. If you do receive a message with a suspicious link, double-check the message sender’s contact information to make sure it matches the company or financial institution they claim to represent. Want to investigate further? Look for a legitimate phone number or email address and contact the company or your bank directly to request more information on the issue.
2. Browser Extensions You may have noticed an uptick in offers to download “money-saving” browser extensions. Some of these are legitimate, many are not. Malicious extensions can spy on your web activity and steal your personal data.
Tip: Most Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals will be advertised on retailer’s websites. If you do want to install a browser extension, research it on a reviews website like TrustPilot first to see if it’s suspicious.
3. Billing scams The last thing you’ll want to hear after a transaction is that some of your purchases didn’t go through and might be canceled.
Scammers often pose as major retailers and contact you with an "urgent message" claiming an order didn’t go through or your payment information needs to be updated. They also sometimes pose as banks, asking you to verify your information before allowing a payment to process.
Tip: Scammers typically try to create a “sense of urgency,” implying that if you don’t act immediately, there will be dire consequences like a canceled shopping order or even a frozen bank account. Legitimate companies rarely use this sort of intense language. If you're currently involved in this sort of dialogue with a potential criminal, reach out to your bank or the retailer directly to make sure you aren’t getting scammed.
4. Unfamiliar websites If you’re tired of inflation-bloated prices, you’ll understandably be looking for the best shopping deals possible. That might lead you to fake websites offering deals that seem too good to be true, because they are.
Tip: Double-check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate before entering any personal information — again, sites like TrustPilot can help. Personally, I only shop online with major retailer websites (who have brick and mortar stores), Amazon or highly rated eBay sellers.
5. Verification code scams Multi-factor authentication is a relatively easy way to make it harder for hackers to crack your personal accounts. But it’s not impenetrable, and scammers can get around it by sending you a phishing message posing as your bank or a major retailer, asking you to confirm a verification code to finalize your purchase.
Tip: In these cases, the scammer likely already has your log-in information and password, possibly from a data leak and they need the verification code to access your online account. This is why banks and retailers typically remind you not to share your multi-factor authentication codes with anyone and that they’ll never call you on the phone to ask for the code. Only enter a verification code directly into a login page that you know and trust.
Playing it safe this shopping season might feel frustrating, but it’s far better than the alternative. Better to miss out on a couple of deals than to be scammed out of your hard earned money!
Stay safe out there.