November 20, 2018

Whilst the face-to-face fisty cuffs down the aisle to grab the latest smart TV bargain have the potential to leave you black and blue this Friday, don’t forget that even for you online bargain hunters, there’s still a real danger of bruising your ego – or even worse, your bank balance.

With Black Friday fast approaching, the online fraudsters will be out in full force.

Black Friday lands on the day after Thanksgiving Day and is often regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season.  Now, if you’re anything like me, the first day of the Christmas shopping season actually lands on Christmas Eve – but let’s be honest, some of the deals out there can be tempting!

It’s estimated that UK shoppers will spend an average of nearly £250 during Black Friday this year, with the US set to spend an average of $300.  You can expect the usual big hitters to be offering some pretty chunky discounts, such as Amazon, John Lewis and co… but remember, whilst this is seen as the lead up to Christmas, Black Friday is quite literally Christmas Day for cyber-criminals and fraudsters.

So, in the interests of keeping everyone safe and secure online, here are our top security awareness tips to help you make the most out of this years’ sales extravaganza.

Something Phishy?

People are likely to see a spike in the amount of phishing emails they receive.  It has been reported that phishing attacks actually increase by over 300% during Black Friday events, so ensuring you, your colleagues, friends and family know what to spot is absolutely crucial.

  • Don’t automatically trust the “From” details in an email – after all, a sneaky fraudster could mask their dodgy email address of phoneyemail@sneakytrickster.com by calling themselves “Your Bank”
  • If there’s a link, stop think – don’t automatically click on links within emails. This Black Friday, you’re likely to see some dubious attempts convincing you to unlock your account because suspicious activity has been detected – and similar scams.  By hovering over a link, you can see its true destination (it might suggest it’s taking you to Amazon, but if you hover over the link and it says something different – then there’s a giant red flag for you). If you are concerned that an account might have been compromised or that you need to take action, whatever you do, don’t follow the link within the email.  Navigate to the website manually.
  • Don’t click on attachments – that includes “invoices” or “receipts” for items you never ordered. If you never ordered it, the chances are… you never ordered it!  It’s most likely a scam and cybercriminals can hide nasty software in attachments, so steer clear.
  • Don’t believe everything you see – the thing is, these fraudsters are getting sneakier by the day. Even if you receive an email from a legitimate looking email address – remember, it could be spoofed (meaning, it looks exactly like the real thing but isn’t!)
  • Beware a “call to action” – you know the type, “unlock your account”, “urgent payment required” and the likes. If any email contains a call to action, treat it with suspicion.

And, finally, remember, phishing doesn’t just apply to emails… the same rules apply to any special offers, warnings or alerts you receive via text on your mobile phone (often referred to as Smishing).

Social media scams

Don’t forget, phishing emails aren’t the only route that a fraudster might try to trick you.  You might well see an increase in dodgy adverts that pop up whilst your browsing your Facebook or other social media account.  If you see something tempting, be sure to navigate to the supplier yourself and avoid getting duped by a fake advert.

Using trustworthy sites

As a keen bargain hunter, you’ll be sure to do your comparisons and try to find the best deal but be careful.  If you’ve never heard of that provider, then think twice.  Also keep an eye out that all websites have the secure status of httpS (the S stands for secure and means all data transmitted between you and that site is encrypted).  Although, remember, even some dodgy sites have been wrongly assigned httpS, so it isn’t 100% trustworthy.

 Too good to be true?

Don’t be duped by amazing offers.  Yes, of course – make sure you find the best price for a product, but don’t just jump straight in on what seems like a great offer.  Many retailers will claim they’re offering “up to 1 billion percent off”, but actually might have only heavily discounted a few items. And, even then, it’s no guarantee that the item is the bargain you’re hunting for.  Some retailers inflate prices leading up to the big event, so be sure to check around for the ordinary pricing.  During last year’s Black Friday event, Which? found that 9 out of 10 offers were actually cheaper of the same price at other points during the year.  A good website to combat this is camelcamelcamel.com.  It helps you see the price history of products listed on Amazon… so you can see just how good a deal it really is!

Use a credit card

Under legislation (ok, if you want to be boring check out section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act), credit cards must provide protection for purchases above £100 and below £30,000.  Debit cards don’t benefit from this same protection so if you can make purchases on your credit card instead, it’s a good idea.

 Avoid using public wi-fi

Remember, if you use public wi-fi to transmit sensitive information (such as your credit card details) could be transmitted openly, without encryption, meaning it could be vulnerable to being intercepted.  Rather than connecting to public wi-fi, why not simply use your phone’s 3G or 4G signal instead?

 Managing your passwords

There say there’s no time like the present and that couldn’t be truer than when talking about password managers and Black Friday.  If you’re shopping around, you’re likely to be needing to open up a few new shopping accounts.  Please (I’m begging you), stop reusing that same password over and over again.  And, yes – I know they’re hard to remember, so why not start using a password manager?  This way, you can create really tough, secure passwords that are different for each and every account you own – meaning if one is ever compromised, all of your other accounts will be safe and sound.

Sharing the message

The cyber-security issues that we see associated with Black Friday, much like so many of the cyber-attacks that are out there, typically involve human behaviour.  So, with that in mind – why don’t you help out a friend and share this message to help them stay secure.



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