Shopping Safely During Black Friday Sales

By: Surjit Singh Flora

Love it or hate it, Black Friday has become the huge shopping event of the year, with customers spending millions of dollars both in-store and online.

This year, the seasonal shopping extravaganzas lands on Friday, Nov. 29. The date may change, but the principle remains the same.

Black Friday attracts a lot of people, and “lots of people” attract scammers. That means you need to be extra careful when shopping online over the Black Friday or Cyber Monday weekend. There will be people out there keen to relieve you of more money than you try to save.

So, if you are desperate to purchase that ‘must-have’ coat, shoes, or electrical item and you find one in stock, but with a tempting price, remember the old axiom – if it’ too good to be true, it probably is.

When you visit a website on social media page this season and see temptingly low prices, ask yourself – do you recognize the site? Trust the retailer?

While many prices will be very discounted, if you see an item that you consider ridiculously cheap, ensure that you are purchasing it from a verified website and that the retailer is recognizable.

In some cases, these websites are real, but in some scenarios, they are unfortunately a scam.

I speak from experience. In 2014, I was browsing Facebook with my seven-year-old son standing behind me. He saw an ad for an electric-powered go-kart, which usually retails at about $600-700 and up. On this particular Black Friday occasion, the price was a tempting $287. He was asking me to buy it before, and I had checked many sites, only to see it was out of my budget. I was waiting for the best offer, so when I saw this, I decided to purchase it. I paid by Visa card and was given the delivery date in two weeks’ time. Two weeks passed and nothing arrived. I sent emails, which bounced, and the number given for the site wasn’t working.

Finally, I received an automatic message from a no-reply email account. I later found out it was a cyber scam. I forwarded all the links and emails to the police, but nothing was done. Even the website was taken down shortly after I complained.

Many people have likely seen the posts on social media doing the rounds – for example, a post from an anonymous Facebook user might have a picture posted advertising name brands with massive discounts on a website specifically made for the Black Friday sale.

Most, if not all, of these sites should be avoided as they are fraudulent. Many customers have reported and posted reviews that detail this – once they enter their credit card details, they never get the goods.

Over the last few years, Black Friday has been used to scam buyers and customers, who are being deceived on names of discount and original products.

Hackers steal the details of customers that are ordering online and use their financial information for nefarious means. Below are the tricks that hackers use to scam online buyers:

– Dummy Websites (clone websites of famous brands)

– Fake Ads (Running multiple ads on social media)

– Phishing Attacks (mostly done through emails)

Online buyers should be aware of such scams and keep an eye on suspicious websites and online activities. They should learn or at least follow some tips and tricks to avoid Black Friday scams. Some of the tips listed below:

– Cross-check the deals before availing it.

– Use credit cards for shopping online instead of debit cards.

– Keep your device’s security software up to date.

– Make sure to buy from verified websites/accounts/apps.

– Don’t shop using public Wi-Fi

If your browser is right up to date, make sure to check whether dangerous links are autoblocked before you click on them. You’ll see some great offers advertised in your emails and over social media, but no discount is worth the jeopardy of exposing yourself to online scammers.

Wherever possible, stick to the big-name stores online: Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, and so on. These major retailers have robust cybersecurity procedures in place, so the chances of getting hacked are slim. if you’re still buying from any site, always check whether you are on the store web portal you think you are by verifying it in your browser’s address bar.

It’s not that you should never shop at web outlets, but make sure they are using HTTPS technology, which is indicated by a padlock symbol in your browser’s address bar. Look for an office with a physical address and contact details, and reviews left by some other users (such as Trustpilot) can be helpful for you. See if they have an established presence on Facebook or Twitter — and if those accounts are active.

Credit and debit card issuers might protect you against the fraud but check their online policies if you are not sure about yours. Nevertheless, keep checking your bank accounts throughout the Black Friday event weekend to make sure only the amounts you’re expecting to be debited are going out.

About the author

Asia Metro Editor

Surjit Singh Flora

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