Ready for the biggest shopping spree of the year? Got all the best deals in line? That might actually not be the case. Since everyone is looking for a chance to save money during this sales season, cybercriminals are locked and loaded with a diverse range of scams to cash in on the occasion.
If you’re looking out for the worst and most common Black Friday scams, we’ve got a different guide for you. If you’re aiming to be proactive and avoid scams altogether, you’ve come to the right place. Today you’ll learn how to stay safe, sane, and cautious while scouring for the best Black Friday deals.
1. The one letter that all secure sites have
Take a close look at the URL of the site you’re visiting. If it has HTTPS in the URL field and a tiny green padlock next to it, consider yourself safe – the “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure.” However, if you’ve noticed that the URL only contains HTTP, tread carefully.
To avoid visiting malicious sites, you can configure your browser’s security preferences to block potentially dangerous websites or downloads. Most popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox allow users to customize their security preferences according to their needs. You can configure your security preferences in your browser’s settings.
2. Pay with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or a credit card
These payment methods offer stronger consumer protection than can be provided by debit cards, wire transfers, or cash. For instance, Apple Pay employs security features built into the hardware and software of your device to ensure secure transactions. Google Pay and credit card purchases are covered in Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which ensures legal protection if a company or seller you are buying from doesn’t deliver what it promised or goes bankrupt. You can also set up a virtual credit card with a spending limit. Even if your details are breached, the card will decline all transactions beyond the set limit.
Be especially wary of any seller that requests wire transfers. Scammers prefer such transactions because there’s virtually no way to reverse them once they are processed. Being smart and cautious about payment methods means you’ll have more success claiming your money if things go haywire.
3. Use a password manager
If you are going to do most of your bargain-hunting online, prepare to create a lot of accounts and remember dozens of passwords. To make things easier for yourself, you’ll probably reuse the same login details on most online stores, if not all of them. However, this convenience can lure you into the danger of breached login credentials – and if one of your accounts is affected, all of them are.
It’s always recommended to have unique and strong passwords for your accounts. However, that doesn’t mean you have to memorize every single one. To make your life much easier and stress-free, use a password manager which will securely store and remember your passwords for you. NordPass is a password manager that lets you store your passwords as well as your credit card details, making it a perfect fit for online shopping. NordPass comes equipped with a password generator, saving you a headache of coming up with unique passwords each time.
4. Update your software
It can be so tempting to check “Remind me later” each time a new update notification pops up. However, whether you’re shopping online or browsing new sites, you need to keep your guard up.
Make sure your apps are up to date and the latest software is installed on your devices. Scammers always look for weak spots in older software to plant their mischief, but regular updates can help you stay secure, as developers issue bug fixes to eliminate security vulnerabilities.
5. Use a VPN app
Black Friday fever can strike you anywhere. Perhaps you’re walking through a mall, spot an item you really want at one of the shops, and check to see if they have it in your size. They don’t? Not a problem – you can just connect to the mall Wi-Fi and quickly check their stock online. And just like that, you’ve opened up your data to bad actors – turns out that Wi-Fi was as accessible as it was insecure.
Instead of connecting to an insecure network directly, you should use a virtual private network (VPN) first. A VPN is a one-click security cloak. It hides your internet traffic from scammers with state-of-the-art encryption that would take hundreds of years to crack.
6. Be cautious with SMS and email offers
It’s not unusual for companies to send their clients text messages or emails with special offers during Black Friday or any other sale period. Some malicious actors like to take advantage of this and send spoofed messages of their own. Usually these messages contain a phishing link designed to look very similar to a real website. But there’s a catch: if you enter your login credentials or card details into this site, you’re inadvertently handing it over to the hackers.
If you’ve received a suspicious offer via a text message or an email, don’t click any links. Check the online store’s website and social media to see if they’ve announced similar deals. You can also get in touch with customer support to cross-check if the offer is real. If it’s not, delete the message and block the contact.
7. Avoid suspicious pop-ups and redirect links
You’re visiting a seemingly innocuous website. Suddenly your scrolling is interrupted by a pop-up window exclaiming a super exciting deal, valid only for the next ten minutes so hurry up! What do you do – click it or close it?
Aside from being annoying and distracting, pop-ups and redirects can also be dangerous. Clicking them can send you to fake sites or even prompt an unwanted malware download. Once that’s done, scammers are free to do almost anything they please with your device. So close the pop-up and back out of the website. If you accidentally clicked anything, run a system scan for viruses for good measure.
8. Watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals
The hype around Black Friday is huge. Scammers know it and try their best to cash in on the opportunity. All too often, the internet gets flooded with impossibly good deals. A brand new smartphone for just $25, no strings attached? A pair of designer sneakers or a shirt from this year’s fall/winter collection for $10? Sounds great, but remember — anything that seems too good to be true probably is.
Be careful not to let your guard down. Ridiculously low prices are a typical bait that scammers use to lure you into their trap. Generally, Black Friday deals fall within the 20-30% off range. Some websites offer price trackers to let you see how the price of the item has changed leading up to Black Friday. Can’t find any prior data for that one shop with cosmic deals? Then it was probably arranged solely to trick unassuming shoppers and rob them of their money and data.
9. Click the site’s trust badges
With so many copycat websites around, how can you be sure you’re buying from a legitimate source? Keep an eye on what trust badges the page has. Trust badges confirm that a security authority has verified the website. VeriSign, Better Business Bureau (BBB), and PayPal-Verified are some of the most easily recognizable ones. You will normally find trust badges at the bottom of most websites.
However, the badges being on the page aren’t proof alone of legitimacy. Trust badges are just images, and scammers can copy and paste them onto their fake websites. If a site is really certified, clicking on the badge should take you to the site of the issuer (for example, to verisign.com). If you’re having doubts, hover over the badge to see if it’s interactive and check what URL it links to. If the link clearly leads to the trust verification provider, you’re safe to proceed.
10. Do your research
Keeping yourself safe during the shopping craze requires some research from your end as well. After all, new scams pop up each year, and you have to be ready for anything. So do your due diligence – research news portals, forums, and Reddit boards to see what new scam tactics are popular.
Always double-check the websites you’re visiting for reviews and negative experiences. Perhaps the site is very new and conveniently only seems to be available during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday season – it could be someone trying to copy a pop-up store model online, but it’s more likely to be a scam. Make sure the URLs of the stores you’re visiting are accurate. Even if you don’t catch every great deal, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
11. Limit sharing personal information
Last but not least, be mindful of what information about yourself you’re sharing online and who might have access to it. When it comes to online shopping, the stakes are high – you need to provide your name, address, and card details.
Be mindful when you create new accounts – don’t reveal more information than necessary. If possible, select an alternative delivery method, like a parcel locker. Always check the data storage and retention policies – is the store compliant, how is your information stored and for how long? Put your privacy first and shop securely.
In the rush of finding a bargain, safety may be the last thing on your mind, but please do stay extra vigilant. These precautions take just a few seconds, but it will take you days to reclaim your money. Worse still, you might have your details spread all over the dark web for years to come. But there’s no need to stress this Black Friday shopping season – you’re all set to notice attempts to scam you and you’ll dodge them with ease.
Before you start your hunt for the best discounts, make sure you’re armed with the right security tools – NordPass is here to make your shopping experience smoother and safer. NordPass generates strong passwords for each new store you sign up for, auto-fills your address and card details once you get to the checkout screen, and ensures your login credentials are kept secure in your encrypted vault.
In the spirit of the season, we’re bringing you some great Black Friday deals. Planning to hit up brick-and-mortar stores first and save online shopping for later? No worries – we’ve got you covered with special offers for Cyber Monday as well. And for now – happy shopping and stay safe!
About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.
NordPass is developed by Nord Security, a company leading the global market of cybersecurity products.
The web has become a chaotic space where safety and trust have been compromised by cybercrime and data protection issues. Therefore, our team has a global mission to shape a more trusted and peaceful online future for people everywhere.