#BlackFriday: Preparing for Online Shopping Scams This Holiday Season

I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the seedy underground of cyber- criminals fund stores to play Mariah Carey’s “all I want for Christmas” on repeat from November onwards. Why would they do such a thing I hear you ask.

Well, after about three minutes of listening to the song, you forget what you walked into the store to buy. You quickly question your life choices of coming out in the cold, vowing from here on in to buy everything online and never stepping foot in a store again – regardless of how pretty the lights on Oxford Street look.

However, with more people online there are more chances to scam, deceive and rob people of their hard-earned money.

Let’s take a look at some of the top scams that may hit an inbox near you soon as the holiday shopping season begins with Black Friday.

  • Smishing: No, smishing isn’t something that happens under the mistletoe. It stands for SMS phishing – or basically scams which come through text messages on your phone. As more organizations keep customers in the loop with text messages, criminals have resorted to using it as a method to deceive unsuspecting victims, whether this be a fake delivery scam or a notification of a voucher. Be careful of text messages and the links they take you to. More often than not, it will take you to a website designed to stream information from you.
  • Fake orders: During the holidays, we all tend to order many things, and it can be easy to lose track of what has or hasn’t been delivered. Criminals will send you messages on email, text or even by phoning you up, claiming there’s been a problem with your order or that your order has been cancelled and you need to follow a link to claim your refund. When in doubt, log onto the website the message claims you made the purchase from directly and check your account. Do not give strangers your bank account details any more than you’ll accept sweets from strangers (unless it’s Halloween, in which case there’s an exception to that rule).
  • Gift card scams: While gift cards are loved by grandparents and are a respectable alternative to a tenner inside a card, they are often abused by criminals, especially during the holiday season. Criminals will often set up websites with amazing too-good-to-be-true deals (spoiler: they are). The only catch is that you cannot pay for that Air Fryer with cash or credit card; no, you need to send them the serial number of a gift card. The problem is that gift cards are like cash, untraceable and once you’ve handed the serial number over, you’ll never see your items again.

Ways to Protect Yourself

  • Be mindful of your emotions: Criminals are always looking to exploit emotions, whether it’s our fear, greed, excitement or any other. So, whenever you see a deal that seems too good to be true, a notice that you owe money or that a cancellation has occurred, try not to worry immediately. If it is a legitimate issue, it should be one that can be resolved by contacting the courier company, your bank or the appropriate retailer to get to the bottom of the matter.
  • Protect accounts: If possible, use a password manager and enable multi-factor authentication. Avoid reusing passwords.
  • Report phishing: If you receive a suspected phishing email or text message report it. This could be to your email provider, or your local body. In the UK forward the email to report@phishing.gov.uk or an SMS to 7726.
  • Use reputable websites: Ask yourself, are you making an order from a reputable retailer? Are there examples of clear spelling or grammar mistakes? Is there a corporate email address visible (not a Yahoo, Gmail or similar email). Check for reviews online regarding the retailer.
  • Use a secure, protected payment provider: Lastly, when making a payment, avoid using money transfer services as this is a highly uncommon way to make a purchase. Once payment is made, verify that it has gone through correctly by checking your bank statements.

By following this guidance and remaining vigilant ahead of Black Friday and the festive period, you will be going a long way to ensuring you have a pleasant shopping experience.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?