Beware the Fraudsters on Black Friday

As the UK gears up to for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, kicking off the holiday shopping season, online shoppers need to be savvy and steer clear of scams and fake deals while they hunt for the best bargains.

Online sales are expected to rise again this year, following a record increase last year to over 20% of all salesi. With the average shopper expected to spend around £315 per personii, both online and in store, the shops are looking to beat last year’s whopping 1708% increase in sales on Black Fridayiii compared to an ordinary day, so there’s a huge incentive for fraudsters to get in on the action.

Kelli Fielding, managing director of consumer markets at TransUnion in the UK, which will provide hundreds of thousands of credit and identity checks over the peak shopping period as consumers shop online said: Even without the rush of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, retailers are being increasingly targeted in fraud attacks. According to fraud prevention service Cifas, this year has seen online retailers hit with a 12% increaseiv in fraud overall. This included both identity fraud, where the fraudster uses the address of the victim, and also a huge 90% rise in cases where a criminal takes over a user’s account and makes purchases for delivery.

“Whilst retailers have checks in place to protect their customers wherever possible, it’s important consumers know the signs to look out for, so that they can spot some of the typical scams and keep themselves safe when shopping online.”

Kelli shares a few tips as the peak shopping period approaches:

Be sceptical. If you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Black Friday deals are designed to be eye-catching and competitive but if you think that 90% discount on the latest high-tech TV is a great bargain, check it carefully, or it may end up costing you much more than full price in the long run. Fraudsters often create fake sites to replicate real ones – a common scam tactic – so check the URL for unusual characters. If it’s a site you’ve never heard of before, check whether it runs over a secure connection by looking for a green padlock in the address bar or https:// before the web address, and check whether it shows up in a google search. If you spot misspellings or odd language, that may also be a sign it’s a fake. The government-backed Take Five fraud campaign helps consumers understand more about some of the common scam tactics so they can protect themselves from financial fraud. Visit https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk

Make the right connections. With mobiles, tablets and laptops, it’s easy to connect to WiFi whenever and wherever is convenient to take advantage of the sales. However, as a rule of thumb, try not to shop using public or open WiFi. A fraudster can often download simple hacking software and snoop on how you’re using that public WiFi network – on a train or in a coffee shop, for example. If you really need to shop in these locations rather than wait until you get to your home WiFi, use mobile data, or connect through a VPN which will encrypt your data and prevent anyone else seeing it and stealing your details.

Go directly to the source. Some retailers will offer exclusive discounts if you download their app or sign up for marketing emails. Check that you’re downloading the real app directly; verified through the Play Store or Apple App Store and not through an email link. Anything emailed could be a smart phishing attempt.

Don’t be tempted to suspend or cancel security settings for an app either. If you’re keen to get the loyalty scheme discounts – sign up on the store website or official app directly where you can be sure you’re giving your information to the right people, not scammers who may have created a convincing fake email and landing page.

Keep it to yourself. It’s natural to want to tell everyone about the super deal you’ve just snagged. But before you share anything on social media, consider that scammers may be monitoring for information that can help them build a picture of potential targets for identity theft. That includes locations, financial details, shopping habits, travel plans and more, so think before you share anything.

Regularly checking your credit report can help you monitor for ID fraud, as if someone tries to use your identity in a scam, this might be one of the first places you spot it. To monitor your TransUnion credit report regularly, sign up to one of the following free online services: Credit Karma, MoneySuperMarket, or TotallyMoney.



[i] ONS retail bulletin November 2018

[ii] ONS, as above

[iii] Collected retail stats for UK Black Friday

[iv] UK Fraud report. Cifas Fraudscape 2019