Black Friday, Cyber Monday: Tips to protect yourself from fraud when shopping online

Stay safe this Black Friday
Stay safe this Black Friday

In the rush to snaffle up those Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains, shoppers often fail to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves when buying online. But anyone who lets their guard down risks falling victim to fraud, with 'Grinch-like' cyber-fraudsters waiting to pounce.

There are tons of savings to be had, of course, but in some cases, the deals may not be what they seem. Mercifully, there are ways to avoid being duped by Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams (check out some key tips below).

Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime, this week released last year’s Christmas crime figures, showing that more than 15,000 victims lost around £16million, up 45 per cent on 2015.

It may come as a surprise, but men aged 20-29 were the most common victims, with online auction fraud accounting for 65 per cent of crime reports, the average loss being a whopping £727.

In demand items victims reported losing out on to fraudsters included Yeezy trainers, Kylie Jenner make-up, hair dryers, drones and Fitbit watches.

Mobiles phones continue to be the most likely thing that people try to buy from fraudsters, with clothing and accessories second on the list and footwear shooting up from sixth to third place. Watches have also overtaken jewellery and are now more commonly offered by fraudsters.

Action Fraud reckon that this year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping bonanzas are set to be the most fraudulent on record as retailers are planning to bombard consumers with more than 40 million texts.

In an attempt to combat this, Action Fraud is warning shoppers to avoid clicking on links in shopping-related SMS and Whatsapp messages, over fears that criminals are jumping on a boom in legitimate "special offer" texts to steal people's details.

Action Fraud’s DI Chris Felton said: "Black Friday is a prime opportunity for fraudsters to target shoppers looking for deals on Christmas presents. We have recently seen a spike in reporting of Whatsapp supermarket voucher scams so people should be cautious about Black Friday deals they receive in a Whatsapp message.

“We urge people to never click on unsolicited links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact. Also clear your browsing history and cookies.

“Fraudsters may have installed cookies on your phone that track you, or add browser extensions that can be used to show you advertisements. If you believe you have fallen victim to fraud, please report it to us.”

Top tips to protect yourself

If possible use online retailers/brands you are aware of and trust. For major brands always go to the official website to find a list of authorised sellers.

Check the delivery, insurance, warranty and returns policy.

Be especially careful when purchasing expensive items.

Make sure you have adequate anti-virus software that will enable your computer to flag any untrustworthy sites

Think before you buy

If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.

Never click on unsolicited emails or text messages. Criminals can use the technology to make emails or texts look like they come from a legitimate business or organisation.

If you’re buying tickets, always buy from official sources and never pay by direct transfer.

If you’re buying a holiday online, research it thoroughly to ensure that is a genuine offer and check to make sure it is registered with ABTA and ATOL.

Think when you're buying

Use methods like PayPal when buying on auction sites; never transfer money to someone you don’t know.

Secure Wi-Fi is vital for your privacy. Check that the network you’re using is secure before you make any financial transactions.

Keep your purchases secure

Always ensure that you keep your anti-virus software, operating systems and other security measures up-to-date on your electronic devices.

Create strong passwords that are unique for each account you have. A good way to create a strong and memorable password is to use three random words.