Black Friday and Cyber Monday Scams: Beware of the Pitfalls

With the shopping bonanzas of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes a flurry of deals and offers, some of which are too good to be true. Unfortunately, the latter instances often become scams run by fraudsters seeking to take advantage of the shopping frenzy. In this article, we will discuss some of the most notorious Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams that you should keep an eye out for.

Understanding the Scams

Scammers are skilled manipulators who know how to twist human emotions to their advantage. They create a sense of urgency, fear, or stress, which are heightened during the holiday season rush. As people scramble to get the best deals and hard-to-get items, they often let their guard down, making them easy targets for these fraudsters. Knowing how to identify these scams is the first step to safeguarding yourself from becoming a victim.

Top Online Shopping Scams to Avoid

Whether you’re a seasoned online shopper or just getting started, this guide will help you identify the top online shopping scams today and stay one step ahead to enjoy a safer, more secure shopping experience:

1. The Fake Order Scam

As everyone is hurrying to grab the best deals during the holiday season, keeping track of all the orders can be challenging. Scammers leverage this situation, sending fake order confirmations via email or text. These seemingly legit confirmations often contain malware or phishing links that the scammers use to steal your identity. The best strategy is to track your orders directly from the seller’s website or platform.

2. The Phony Tracking Number Scam

Similar to the fake order scam, fraudsters send fake package tracking notifications as an email attachment or link. Actual retailers will never send tracking numbers via an attachment. Scammers use these tactics to infect your device with malware or direct you to phishing sites. As always, visit the seller’s site to get accurate tracking information for your order.

3. The Bogus Website Scam

Scammers are skilled at creating fake email addresses and URLs that resemble those of legitimate companies. These phishing emails often lead to scam sites that capture your login credentials and payment information. Avoid clicking on email links; it’s safer to type the URL manually and search for deals.

Dig Deeper: 7 Ways to Tell If It’s a Fake

4. The Hot Deal Scam

Scarcity is a prime tool for scammers. They create fake websites offering popular items that are generally hard to find. These scams can result in you paying for a product you’ll never receive and the scammer possessing your payment details. The Better Business Bureau provides useful reviews to help verify the legitimacy of a product or seller.

5. The Fake Charity Scam

During the holiday season, there’s a surge in charity donations, and scammers know this trend. They set up bogus charities and employ high-pressure tactics to get you to donate. Be wary of organizations that accept payment only through gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers resources to ensure your donations reach legitimate charities.

Avoiding Scams on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Amidst the whirlwind of savings and special offers, there’s a lurking concern that every savvy shopper should be aware of – scams. Protecting yourself from potential scams during these shopping bonanzas is paramount. Several strategies are available to help you stay one step ahead of potential scammers and ensure a safe and successful shopping experience during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here are strategies you can follow:

Stick with known, legitimate retailers online

One of the simplest ways to avoid scammers is to shop from familiar and reputable online retailers. If you’re unsure about a retailer, the U.S. Better Business Bureau provides listings to help you research their reputation.

Look for the lock icon in your browser when you shop

Secure websites start with “https,” with the extra “s” standing for “secure.” You’ll often see a padlock icon in the address bar of your browser. If you don’t see these security indicators, avoid purchasing on that website.

McAfee Pro Tip: When you’re visiting a website, it’s important to keep your radar up for a few essential clues that tell you whether it’s safe or not. Sure, we’ve talked about the ‘https’ thing in the web address, but there are other giveaways, too, like phony icons and symbols, how well the website’s put together, how fast it loads, and a bunch of other stuff. Want to know more about how to check out if a website’s the real deal or not? Check how to tell whether a website is safe.

6. The False Discount Scam

In this scam, fraudsters lure victims with advertisements offering significant discounts on popular products. These advertisements usually contain a link redirecting you to a fraudulent website where your personal and financial information gets stolen. Always cross-check the offered prices with those on the manufacturer’s or well-known retailers’ websites. Also, check if the seller provides complete contact information. A lack of information or a recently registered website should raise a red flag.

7. The Social Media Gift Exchange Scam

During the holiday season, a gift exchange scam often resurfaces on social media. The concept is simple: you buy a gift worth a certain amount, typically $10, and supposedly receive several gifts in return. However, the only person who benefits is the scammer who initiated the scheme. This type of scam is not only deceptive but also illegal. If you encounter such a scheme on social media, report it immediately.

Dig Deeper: 6 Tips for Protecting Your Social Media Accounts

8. The Fraudulent Gift Card Scam

Scammers love gift cards! They use emails or text messages to trick you into thinking you’ve received a gift card from a friend or family member. These messages often contain links that, when clicked, install malware on your device or steal your personal information. Always verify the source before clicking on any links. And remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

9. The Non-existent E-tailer Scam

Beware of new e-commerce sites offering popular items at massive discounts. Scammers often create fake e-commerce sites that vanish after collecting money from their victims. Always research the seller’s reputation before making a purchase. If you can’t find any reviews or feedback about the seller, it’s better to avoid the risk.

Dig Deeper: 8 Ways to Know If Online Stores Are Safe and Legit

10. The Smishing Scam

Smishing is a scam where fraudsters send text messages posing as reputable companies to trick individuals into revealing personal information. During the holiday season, these messages often link to a supposed deal or gift. However, the link usually leads to a fraudulent website designed to steal your data. Treat unsolicited print messages with caution, and never click on suspicious links.

Final Thoughts

While the holiday season brings joy and excitement, it also increases online shopping scams. Scammers use a variety of tactics, including fake order confirmations, phony tracking numbers, bogus websites, and nonexistent e-tailers, to trick their victims. To protect yourself, always verify the source before clicking on any links, research sellers before purchasing, and avoid deals that seem too good to be true. By being vigilant and taking precautions, you can safely navigate through the holiday shopping frenzy and prevent yourself from falling victim to these Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams. And, of course, don’t forget to equip your devices with security solutions further to improve your security, privacy, and finances.

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