With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it’s not only bargain hungry shoppers you need to protect yourself against. Cyber criminals will almost certainly be waiting in the wings with a variety of online scams designed to defraud shoppers caught up in the discount bonanza.
According to Get Safe Online, the government-backed internet safety initiative, cyber fraudsters are most likely to strike on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And with statistics revealing that more than £16 billion was lost to cyber crime over the festive season in 2014 - a 42 percent increase on the year before – it’s not hard to see why.
Here are our top ten tips for staying cyber-secure this weekend.
1. Spot the fake websites
Websites can easily be created to look very similar to the official retail ones. The fraudsters behind them will post several incredible deals to entice shoppers in. However, once a payment is made, shoppers often find they receive inferior goods, ones that do not match the description and that’s if they turn up at all.
So, how to spot a fake website? Many can be awash with grammatical errors having been created overseas. We would recommend that you check the URL of the website. Domain names ending in .net or .org very rarely offer online shopping so be aware.
2. Use your credit card
Paying by credit card will offer you protection if something does go wrong with your purchase, for example, if the goods don’t arrive or are faulty and they cost more than £100, you can claim the money back. For goods under £100 or payments made by a debit card, your bank may be able to recover the money through "chargeback".
When buying on eBay, we would advise sticking to Paypal as bank transfers are unlikely to be refunded. Furthermore, be wary if a website asks you to make a bank transfer instead of making a card payment.
3. Is the website secure?
Never make a purchase from a website that does not have ‘https’ at the start of the URL. The ‘s’ stands for secure. You should also see a green padlock to the left of the browser. Check to see that the padlock is not on the page itself as this could suggest a fraudulent site.
4. Beware of “phishy” emails
Phishing messages are extremely common nowadays. We’ve all had them. Designed to appear as if they are from trusted organisations like your bank or HMRC or familiar retailers like Apple, their aim is to dupe consumers into revealing their personal details.
Check the email address that the message is from and if you’re suspicious, don’t click on any links embedded in the message as when clicked, they can download malicious software or take users through to a spoofed website where details are requested.
Be wary to of an ‘unsubscribe’ link as according to Action Fraud, the cybercrime reporting service, even these could be malicious.
5. Don't trust Whatsapp messages offering cash - even if they're from your friends
This week Action Fraud warned consumers of a new Whatsapp scam.
Users have reported receiving messages offering Topshop and Sainsbury’s gift cards that appear to be sent from a phone contact. When you click the link in the message, it takes you through to an official looking site which requests personal details.
Action Fraud warned clicking on the link would also allow the fraudsters to collect personal information from your device that could track you. Delete messages like these even if they look like they’ve come from someone you trust and install security software on your device.
6. Fake freebies on Facebook
Free iPads, flights, shopping vouchers, tickets and cheap RayBan sunglasses all fall into the category of "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is."
Fraudsters create attractive looking deals which they post to Facebook asking users to "like" and "share" the advert to boost it to the top of news feeds and target a wider audience. Those who click through will be asked for personal details, which can be used for fraudulent purposes.
You can check if the Facebook account is verified and from a legitimate company as it will show the blue tick.
7. Don't shop on public wi-fi
If you're shopping online, ensure you’re using your own 3G/4G network or wait until you get home. Internet hotspots offered by cafes, libraries and bars may be convenient but can be alarmingly vulnerable. It’s fairly easy for a fraudster to hack into the network and access user details.
8. Be wary of the "Click and Receive" scam
Be very suspicious of emails that ask you to click on a link and enter your details to rearrange a delivery. It won't tell you what the item is but over the Black Friday weekend thousands of people are likely to have ordered something online and may be tricked into handing over personal information.
If the email doesn't tell you what the ordered goods are, be wary and if in doubt, retrace your order trail and make a call to the company you're expecting a parcel from.
9. Shopping on eBay? Stick to the rules
Always pay by Paypal - most items will be protected by eBay's Money Back Guarantee. Scammers will try and get you to pay by bank transfer or a service such as Moneygram or Western Union. Do this and you’ll find you’re left without protection.
Always check the selling history of the person you’re buying from too and your common sense. Although eBay says it doesn’t allow “counterfeit items, fakes, replicas, or unauthorised copies” some do still slip through the net.
10. If you think you've been a victim of a scam - act quickly
If you've been conned, call your bank right away and ask them to try and stop the payment. The sooner you do this the more chance you have of getting your money back.
Banks will only refund customers who have been defrauded on their credit card, debit card or a transaction has been actioned without their authorisation. This applies if the customer has not been "negligent."
If action is taken swiftly and there are funds remaining in the fraudster's account your bank may be able to claw back it back if it requests an indemnity. If you feel your bank has not done enough to help you make a complaint and take it to the Financial Ombudsman to investigate. You should also report it to Action Fraud.
So, taking all that into consideration, you should be able to keep cyber safe this weekend and still be able to enjoy some amazing deals that will undoubtedly be tempting us all. Happy shopping!