For retailers, this is the best time of the year but also the most profitable time for scammers. What I am talking about is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is something we should be aware of, regardless of where we live, as the internet does not respect national boundaries.
Although there are some fantastic bargains to be made on what is known as Black Friday (this year November 24) and Cyber Monday (November 27), unfortunately there are criminals who take advantage of this through various scams and online fraud.
According to a survey undertaken by GFK, a marketing organisation, 63% of consumers are eager to take advantage of Black Friday promotions and a third will start searching for offers a month before the event.
The volume of ecommerce business invoiced during Black Friday week in Portugal should be between €120 million and €130 million. According to the study, the majority of people (72%) plan to spend an average of €290 during Black Friday, which is an 11% increase in value compared to 2022.
Forty-two percent of respondents indicate the fashion sector (clothing, footwear and accessories) as the one in which they intend to take advantage of Black Friday promotions, with the top three of preferences being completed by household appliances (29%) and books (27 %).
Just over half of consumers (54%) plan to shop on Black Friday, both online and offline during the event, with 25% saying they prefer to buy online and 16% opting for physical stores.
Therefore, with a greater emphasis on online shopping, it is important that consumers are aware of the scams that exist and how to avoid them.
Buy from traders you know and trust
When it comes to shopping online, it’s always safest to stick to familiar shops and brands that you know you can trust. If you feel you must shop with an unknown trader, make sure you research them first by looking at independent reviews.
The most obvious things to look out for that signal a scam website are, firstly, website quality and copy/editorial quality. If something about a website’s design feels less than professional, it’s worth being suspicious.
If you’re not sure of a website, make sure you have a look at the URL when you’re paying for your purchase. Any transaction you make should be on a page with an HTTPS link, rather than an HTTP link, as this ensures the transaction is safely encoded.
Deals too good to be true might be a sign of a scam. Read the fine print on who is behind the bargain, total price including delivery, policies on cancellation and refunds, and warranty terms.
Don’t assume all is good if you see no complaints. Often, scammers set up shop just as quickly as they close down their fraudulent operations and make off with their proceeds. Don’t be sold solely on the fact that a company or individual seller has no complaints. Do your homework and research unfamiliar vendors before offering up your personal info and credit card number.
Don’t shop from a free Wi-Fi connection. Protect your personal information when shopping online. The more private your Wi-Fi connection, the more secure your shopping transaction. Avoid coffee shops, airports, libraries, and anywhere that offers free (and vulnerable) connectivity without a password for online shopping. The same goes for online banking.
Pay securely. No matter where you’re shopping, always use a secure form of payment. This means opt for a credit card or PayPal over any direct money transfers.
It’s also a good idea to use two-factor authentication on your online shopping accounts wherever possible. It’s not every retailer that has these, but it’s worth noting that Amazon does. Two-step authentication simply adds another layer of security to your account, requiring you to enter a security code sent via text or call as well as your password when you’re signing in.
Don’t click on strange links. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on your laptop or on your phone or whether the link appears in your email inbox, WhatsApp messages, or pops up on your Facebook News Feed – don’t click any strange or unfamiliar ad links.
It seems obvious, but you don’t know where that link is going to go and what kind of malware is lying in wait there. There are few modern embarrassments quite like clicking one of those links that posts its deal from your account to every one of your Facebook friends or WhatsApp contacts.
Check returns policies. Although return periods are usually extended during the holiday season, some retailers might not take part in this and some could have shorter return windows specifically for electronics, so it’s worth being aware of how long you have to make up your mind. If you do decide to return something, make sure you know exactly what you need for proof of purchase as well as how and where you need to return it.
Lastly, keep track of your spending. Identity thieves bank on the fact that shoppers get caught in the holiday frenzy and pay little mind to whom and for what they’ve paid. Record your purchase details (order confirmation numbers, date and time of purchase, etc.) and regularly eagle-eye your banking and credit card statements. Then, be on the lookout for purchases, especially small ones you might not have made. Often, fraudsters won’t immediately go big in the hope of going undetected.
Do not assume the price advertised is actually a bargain. DECO PROteste, Portugal’s largest consumer organisation, has a very useful feature, including the “Compare Prices tool”, which helps you understand whether discounts announced during times like Black Friday or Cyber Monday are good purchasing opportunities. This research tool records the evolution of product prices in online stores to advise whether or not to purchase them.
Take this advice and enjoy your Christmas shopping safely.
David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
In 2011, he founded Safe Communities Algarve to help the authorities and the community prevent crime. It is now registered as Associação SCP Safe Communities Portugal, the first national association of its type in Portugal.
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