Warning over Black Friday scams that could trick you into handing over personal details – here's what to watch out for
Brits are expected to spend around £8billion across the shopping weekend, putting many at greater risk of frauds and scams.
Hundreds of malicious Black Friday apps and websites are looking to steal personal data and credit card information, cybersecurity experts RiskIQ have warned.
These dodgy websites and apps often lure in shoppers by offering a time-limited deal or a low price that's difficult to say no to.
But during Black Friday numerous retailers use the same methods to promote their sales, meaning many customers fall for the scam sites in the rush to snap up a bargain.
RiskIQ found that more than 5.5 per cent of the 4,331 Black Friday-related apps it found were malicious and contained credit card number skimmers, adware, malware, or even mobile ransomware.
Common online scams
Adware: Software that automatically displays or downloads advertising material such as banners or pop-ups when you're shopping online
Malware: Software which is specifically created to disrupt, damage or gain access to a computer
Ransomware: A type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer or phone until a sum of money is paid
In fact, five of the UK's leading brands, which were anonymised in the report, had their branded terms in the title or description of 6,600 blacklisted apps.
Meanwhile, the top 10 most visited brands had an average of 17 blacklisted apps containing both their branded terms and the words "Black Friday".
In other words, scammers are creating fake mobile apps and websites with the same branding to try and convince consumers to download dodgy apps or visit bogus sites and ultimately "phish" for sensitive data.
And many shoppers are also falling for it – 20 per cent of Brits have bought something in a panic over Black Friday and Cyber Monday from a website they did not recognise because they were scared they'd miss out on a good deal, according to cybersecurity experts McAfee.
Last year, 40 per cent of all Black Friday online transactions took place on a mobile phone, says RiskIQ.
At the same time, during the Black Friday period last year, the malware threat to consumers doubled while the ransomware threat increased by 35 per cent, according to research by McAfee.
Only a few days ago, Amazon shoppers were warned about a Black Friday scam circulating on WhatsApp which offered massive discounts on goods.
But luckily for shoppers, there are steps you can take to be better protected and still be able to enjoy the hunt for good deals this Black Friday.
How to avoid getting caught in a Black Friday scam
- Go to the source: One easy way to avoid counterfeit Black Friday or Cyber Monday apps is to go to the retailer’s website on your mobile browser and look for a link to the app from their website. With Safari on iOS, if a website already has an app, you will get a box at the top asking if you want to open the page in the app or download the app if it isn’t already installed
- Avoid “too good to be true” deals: If a deal seems too good to be true, it often is. These deals are usually a cybercriminal attempting to lure you in via phishing so that you cough up your personal data. Trust deals that are advertised directly from the vendor, and if you are unsure about their legitimacy, scan their site or call their support line for reassurance.
- Pay with a credit card: Credit cards offer better protection against financial fraud than debit cards. You will not be liable for fraudulent purchases and the thieves won’t be able to drain your bank account if they get hold of your account number. Any abnormal use of your credit card number should be automatically flagged or not approved by your bank.
- Always connect with caution: Public Wi-Fi might seem like a good idea, but if consumers are not careful, they could be unknowingly be exposing personal information or credit card details to cybercriminals who are snooping on the network – almost like shouting your bank details out in a café. If you have to shop using a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) to help keep your connection secure. A VPN creates a safe "tunnel" across the internet between your laptop or phone and the internet, meaning nobody can see what you're doing or any details you're putting in.
- Browse with security protection: As our daily activities become more ingrained in our digital lives, it is important to keep everything protected. A comprehensive security solution can help ensure that your devices are protected against malware, phishing attacks and device-specific protection in the event of loss or theft.
Raj Samani, chief scientist and fellow of McAfee, told The Sun: "Bargain hunters need to think before they hand over their personal information to get the best deal, without being stung.
"Never feel panicked to get the best deal and take your time to make sure a site or app is legitimate before entering any personal information.
"Consumers should remember that if an advert for a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is – think before you click on a link to a discount.
"The same goes for emails and messages you receive through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
"If a great discount lands in your inbox, you are best off to check out the site directly rather than clicking on any links."
But it isn't only scammers shoppers should be aware of during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
An investigation by Which? has revealed that some products discounted on Black Friday sell for up to £150 cheaper at other times of the year.
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