April 13, 2024
Annapolis, US 55 F

10 Scams to Watch Out For This Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Personal finance experts at Wealth of Geeks are warning 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.  A cybercriminal’s motive is mostly to steal a customer’s money or personal information, such as bank details, login credentials, and personal address. 

Wealth of Geeks shares 10 of the most common Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday (and beyond) scams that catch shoppers off guard and how to spot them.

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 there is a risk of losing out on an order you have made, then you should be suspicious.  Essentially, they hope to draw you into entering your bank details into a fake website they have made to look authentic.  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.  

2. 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 (think the PS 5 a few years back).  These items are likely 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 Better Business Bureau, who will verify.  

3. Phishing emails 

Phishing emails are commonly used throughout the year, and Black Friday is no different.  Phishing emails are designed to trick users into disclosing sensitive, confidential information.  Therefore, it is important not to click on links or pop-ups from unfamiliar sources.  This also applies to websites, including suspect URLs (ones with no ‘https.’ or locked padlock symbol on the bar) and websites with poor design. 

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 (text, DM, etc) 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 online 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 if they only accept payment through gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. You can check if a charity is legitimate through Charity Navigator.

 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 profile is fake through its 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 incredibly misleading ones. Therefore, if you want to get a more accurate review of a product, 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 properly display, package, handle, or ship the correctly. 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, online website, or in person.  Similarly, discounts and coupons received via email or social media that are advertised as huge discounts can also be void. Therefore, verify the coupon’s source to ensure its validity before using it. 

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