Black Friday is billed as an unmissable opportunity to snap up the deals on gadgets, homeware and clothing for yourself or for early Christmas gifts for your nearest and dearest.
Your emails and social media accounts are probably flooded with the latest Black Friday bargains.
With many of us flocking online to get the best deals, it’s an ideal opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the sales and get access to your bank details or advertise their own illicit material.
“This is a time where consumers need to be on their toes with regards to kind of fraudulent activity,” Chris Morgan, a senior cyber threat intelligence analyst at the cybersecurity data company Digital Shadows, told Euronews Next.
“You’ll see a big increase in the amounts of sort of fake websites that are established during this time, trying to fish people of their details,” he added.
But he said another big threat is the introduction of new fake websites masquerading as popular brands.
Here are some of the ways you can make sure you don’t fall victim to scams.
Don’t trust deals advertised on social media
Fake and fraudulent websites are often advertised on social media sites such as Facebook, which are not thoroughly checked before they are distributed to the user, Morgan said.
He actually fell victim to a scam himself on Facebook (Meta) last year after he purchased children’s toys on a fake website that masqueraded as a company called Little Tykes.
“I purchased a few items without giving it the due diligence it needed and, low and behold, I didn’t receive an invoice, and nothing arrived. I was tired, I wasn’t paying attention and the prices looked good,” he said.
His advice is to manually search for the retailer and the item through a search engine and navigate through the legitimate website itself. But he admits this still isn’t 100 per cent full-proof.
If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is
But fake companies don’t just masquerade on social media; they could also be sending you emails with fraudulent links.
“If you’re being sent something, it comes at an irregular time or you think something looks too good to be true, then generally speaking it is,” said Morgan.
Another indicator is if the email is sent by an unknown source.
Morgan’s biggest takeaway after researching the subject was that it’s important to check if the website is correct, which can be done by verifying if it has an ‘https’ at the start of the website address.
Once a purchase is made, you should also check your financial accounts to make sure there are no irregularities, as this is the time when things can go wrong.
How do cybercriminals operate?
Morgan said that the scams are mostly aimed at harvesting financial information so cybercriminals can get your credit card details and other personally identifiable information (PII) that’s going to be then sold onto trusted third parties.
But during Black Friday, there is also an increase in the number of fake websites.
Once the scammers take the money from your account, it is almost always converted into cryptocurrencies as it is harder to trace.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a cybercriminal who works in standard fiat currency like pounds or dollars or euros or anything like that because authorities can very easily attribute that activity to them,” said Morgan.
“But with cryptocurrency, it just adds that extra layer of obfuscation”.
Morgan explained it can work in two ways. The first is using a cryptocurrency tumbler, which is basically a third party service that mixes cryptocurrency payments with a clean cryptocurrency before redistributing them.
Another way is using a technique called “chain hopping,” which is where you will buy a token such as Bitcoin and convert it into other tokens, such as Dogecoin. This can throw off any attempts of attribution as it creates a distance from the original transaction.