Stay safe online this Black Friday

November 20, 2017

It is scientifically proven that we love a bargain. A lower than normal price harvests a sense of empowerment in the mind of the shopper, causing excitement that usually sends fingers grasping for the credit card. Is it any wonder that the country goes a little loopy on Black Friday?

Originally an American phenomenon, Black Friday refers to the Friday after Thanksgiving when stores offer big discounts to get shoppers back to spending after the holiday. The tradition has taken off here in the UK in recent years, with consumer interest in the sales period growing alongside the enthusiasm for online shopping.

According to the statistics shared last year by retail analysts IMRG, there was a 12% rise in online spending during the Black Friday sales in 2016 compared to 2015, with £6.5bn taken in the whole week. Not only do we like bargains, we also like to bag them on the internet.

Unfortunately, our physiological reaction to a good deal has a worrying impact on our precautions when spending money across the internet. Financial Fraud Action UK found that 31% of online shoppers are more likely to take a risk if they see a great offer, with people aged 16-34 identified as being the demographic most at risk from fraud and scams.

If you are planning to shop online this sale season, be aware of the human tendency to act instinctively. Take extra care to keep your money and data safe with our top tips:

  • Be wary of email offers and deals. The frenzy around Black Friday offers criminals cover to send out phishing emails to gather personal information. Be cautious about opening emails you don’t recognise and never share banking or personal details in response to an email request. Keep an eye on the media for any publicised phishing attempts, as with Amazon last year, so you know what to look out for.
  • Shop directly from store website. Rather than shopping via a link to a website through emails you receive, open a new window and visit the retailer through a reputable search engine. This could help you avoid falling victim to any emails scams by clicking on unscrupulous links to copycat pages.
  • Use a password manager. Having robust passwords are your best defence against hackers. You should also avoid having the same password for more than one account. Get a password manager to help you generate passwords and keep track of them.
  • Use a credit card where possible. It is easier to spot fraudulent activity on a credit card statement than from your current account, and it is also quicker to get the money reimbursed from them than the bank. Credit card companies are also good at spotting irregular activity on your card and can often stop it in its tracks.
  • Research anything that sounds too good to be true. Adopt a sceptical view of all offers and deals you come across, whether by email or via social media. Undertake careful research to verify if the store if real and the offer genuine. Be wary of websites that have errors, odd domain names or a lack of contact details. Check on returns policies and points of contact should there be any problems with your order.
  • Share details if you are scammed. Although not all scammers can be tracked down and prosecuted, it is crucial to share the details if you do become a victim. This can help protect others and support law enforcement as they collect data on methods to close the gaps in the future. Contact Action Fraud and publicise your scam on social media if available.
  • Avoid public WiFi. Hackers have a much easier time intercepting your transactions when they are made across a public network, as these require no authentication. Try to make your purchases on a secure network, at home or work, to keep your bank details safe.
  • Update your anti-virus. Before you start shopping, ensure all your devices have the latest security software installed and are updated to give you a better chance of withstanding any attempted hacks.