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Black Friday Scams: What To Watch For

The holiday season is here, bringing with it some of the most anticipated deals of the year. With 95% of customers planning to do holiday shopping online in 2023, it’s also a time that cybercriminals can’t ignore. Black Friday scams come and go with the shoppers, making for a hidden threat for buyers hurrying to get the best prices. With its global reach, Black Friday significantly influences traditional and online retail, marking it as a time when customers should be especially careful.

In this week’s article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind Black Friday scams, the methods used by fraudsters, and essential tips to spot and avoid them. If you are caught in a scam, we’ll guide you through the first steps you should take. As you embark on your Black Friday shopping, armed with knowledge and caution, you can confidently navigate the sea of deals while safeguarding yourself.

What Is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, traditionally marking the start of the holiday shopping season. With 80% of customers researching or browsing before making a purchase, it’s a popular time to hunt down sales. This day is famous for its big discounts and special offers, drawing in crowds of shoppers to both physical stores and online retailers. Initially a U.S. tradition, Black Friday has become a global phenomenon, with similar sales events in other countries. The name ‘Black Friday’ originated in Philadelphia, describing the heavy traffic and bustling streets seen on this day.

This shopping event, while great for deals, can bring challenges. Stores often become very crowded, and popular items can run out quickly, frustrating shoppers. To ease this, many stores spread their deals over several days or weeks, making the shopping experience less hectic. Online shopping has also changed Black Friday. More people than ever shop from home, leading to challenges like overloaded websites and a higher risk of scams. These changes show how Black Friday adapts to new shopping trends and the growing importance of online stores.

Why Do Black Friday Scams Happen Every Year?

Black Friday is famous for its great deals, with nearly 200 million people making purchases in the U.S. alone. With so much sales activity, it’s also a popular time for scammers of every type. They take advantage of this rush through fake offers, bogus websites, phishing emails, and more, all designed to look like amazing deals. When people are in too much of a rush to get a good price, it’s easier to overlook the signs of a Black Friday scam.

The Impact of Black Friday Scams on Businesses

Black Friday significantly impacts businesses, often dictating their financial success for the year. For retail stores, this day is crucial. It’s a chance to move from a loss (being in the red) to a profit (being in the black), hence the name ‘Black Friday.’ It’s not just about sales; it’s also a time to attract new customers and build brand loyalty, with the increased foot traffic and the opportunity to sell old stock.

However, Black Friday scams have become a significant challenge for businesses. Online fraud can affect both the reputation and the number of sales made. These issues can be especially tough for smaller businesses that may not have the resources of larger companies to recover quickly from such setbacks. Black Friday, therefore, requires companies to focus on more than just maximizing sales. It also means intensifying cybersecurity measures and consumer education to mitigate the risks of online scams.

Types of Black Friday Scam Tactics

When it comes to Black Friday, understanding the tactics scammers use is crucial for staying safe. We’ll discuss some of the most common ones.

Fake Websites

One common approach is creating fake websites to sell products that are often heavily discounted. These websites often look very similar to legitimate retailer sites, but they’re designed to steal your information. They might offer incredible deals to lure you in, but anything you enter, such as payment information, can get stolen.

Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are another tool in the scammer’s kit. Around Black Friday, your inbox might be flooded with promotional emails. Scammers mimic these, sending emails that look like they’re from real stores or brands. They often contain links that lead to fraudulent websites or ask for personal information under the guise of confirming a deal or order. It’s important to be skeptical of unsolicited emails, especially those that urge immediate action or offer unbelievably low prices.

Social Media Scams

Whether using Facebook or Twitter/X, social media platforms are breeding grounds for Black Friday scams. Scammers create fake ads or accounts that appear to offer exclusive deals. Some are more subtle and create fake giveaways, requesting a small payment to cover shipping for the “free” reward. Any personal information you provide is at risk.

Unrealistic Deals

During the holidays, people always look for a good sale. However, some offers may seem too good to be true. Scammers often advertise products at prices far below their actual value. While they may be tempting, unusually low prices can be a red flag. These offers often trick people into rushing to get the seemingly good deal. And when in a hurry, it’s easier to miss the signs of a potential scam.

Fake or Misleading Products

Some scams are less obvious, as the buyer ends up with a product that is not quite what they expected. Whether it’s a business purchasing bulk laptops or an individual buying some gifts, it’s essential to understand what you’re buying and what it should look like after receiving it.

By understanding tactics like these, you can shop more safely during Black Friday. Always verify the legitimacy of a website, be cautious with emails and social media ads, and remember: if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

How Do You Spot Black Friday Scams?

To spot Black Friday scams, start by checking the seller’s background. When shopping online, knowing who you’re buying from is key. Look for things like customer reviews and contact information. Be careful if the seller is new or lacks much information online. Also, keep an eye on the emails you get about sales and deals. Genuine emails from stores are usually well-made and professional. If an email is worded oddly, has a strange layout, or doesn’t address you personally, it could be a scam trying to trick you.

When it comes to paying, always use safe methods. Good online stores offer secure payment, like credit cards or well-known online payment services. Stay away from sites that only take less secure payments, like wire transfers or cryptocurrencies. Also, watch your bank and credit card statements for any weird charges. That can help you catch fraud early. Lastly, always read the website’s privacy policy and return rules. If these aren’t clear or don’t exist, that’s not a good sign. Stick to shopping through trusted apps and websites. By being careful and aware, you can enjoy Black Friday shopping without falling for scams.

What to Do If You Fall Victim to a Scam

If you realize you’ve fallen victim to a Black Friday scam, it’s vital to act quickly and follow these steps:

Step 1: Contact Your Bank or Credit Card Company 

Immediately inform your bank or credit card issuer about the fraudulent transaction. They can block your card to prevent further unauthorized use and may also help with the fraud dispute process.

Step 2: Change Your Online Passwords 

Change your passwords immediately if the scam involves access to your online accounts. Use strong passwords for each account to enhance security.

Step 3: Report the Scam 

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your local consumer protection agency. Reporting the scam can help authorities track the scammers and prevent others from being victimized.

Step 4: Alert the Website or Platform 

If the scam occurred through a website or a platform like eBay or Amazon, report the incident to them. They can act against the fraudulent seller and might help in resolving the issue.

Step 5: Monitor Your Credit Report

Keep an eye on your credit reports for any unusual activity. If you notice anything suspicious, place a fraud alert on your credit file to protect your credit score and identity.

Step 6: Gather Evidence

Collect all communications, receipts, and other evidence related to the scam. This documentation will be valuable for any official investigations or claims you file.

Step 7: Educate Yourself and Others

Learn more about how to avoid similar scams in the future to protect yourself better. Don’t be embarrassed about falling for a Black Friday scam. Be honest with friends and family about what happened, which will reduce the chance of them falling prey, too.

Step 8: Consider Professional Help

If the scam has led to significant financial loss or identity theft, consider consulting with a legal professional for advice on further steps. Businesses will want to contact cybersecurity experts to assess the damage and take measures to prevent a repeat incident.

Remember, taking prompt action can minimize the impact of the scam and help prevent future occurrences.

Shop Safely By Not Falling For Black Friday Scams

Black Friday is a great time to get the best holiday deals but it also brings the potential for scams. Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, and always verify the authenticity of websites and sellers. Checking customer reviews, being cautious with promotional emails, and scrutinizing social media ads are crucial steps in avoiding scams. Using secure payment methods and regularly monitoring your financial accounts also adds a layer of protection.

If you fall victim to a scam, immediate action is vital. Contact your bank, change your online passwords, and report the fraud to the relevant authorities. Sharing your experience can also help others stay alert. Ultimately, enjoying Black Friday’s savings means balancing excitement with caution. You can keep yourself safe by staying informed and being mindful of what you purchase from where.

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