This year, Black Friday falls on November 26 and Cyber Monday on November 29. While it’s the perfect time for shoppers to grab a bargain, the dangers of falling victim to online shopping scams, specifically, purchase scams, are high.
Purchase scams occur when fraudsters trick shoppers into paying in advance for non-existent goods or services. The victims never receive the item they’ve bought and end up losing money.
Fraudsters often rely on the anonymity of the internet to advertise goods and services at a heavily discounted price. They can also use cloned websites with slight changes to the URL to trick victims into thinking they’re purchasing items from a genuine website. In most cases, they ask for payment upfront and send fake receipts and invoices that appear to be from the payment provider.
How to spot a potential purchase scam
You’re offered heavily discounted rates or prices that are considerably cheaper than the original price. The deal is too good to be true.
You’re asked to pay via bank transfer instead of using the website’s own secure payment options. If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, it’s likely to be a scam.
The website you’re purchasing from was only launched a few days/weeks ago. Look out for obvious grammar and spelling errors on the website as well as additional characters on email addresses.
Fraud Protect and Prevent Officer Sharon Hall said: “It can be difficult to spot purchase scams, especially in the lead up to and during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when you’re seeing more deals advertised online. The increase in online shopping has provided criminals with new opportunities to trick people, so consumers need to be extra vigilant to avoid being scammed and losing money. If you’re offered a deal that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Cyber Protect and Prevent Officer Harry Lancaster said: “Many shoppers will be looking to grab some bargains on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it’s important to remember that criminals will try and take advantage of this. Simple steps such as setting up a strong password, using a credit card for online purchases and making sure that a website is secure before entering your personal or financial details will help to prevent you falling victim to a scam.”
Protect yourself from falling victim to online shopping scams
Do your homework: If you haven’t shopped with them before, it’s worth doing some research on online retailers to check if they are legitimate. Reading feedback from people or organisations such as consumer websites will help inform your decision. If you see an enticing offer online, visit the website directly to verify it.
Watch out for phishing emails or texts: Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing and unmissable offers may contain links to fake websites. If you’re unsure, don’t click on the link and visit the website directly instead. If you receive an email that you’re not quite sure about, you can report it by forwarding the email to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at [email protected] You can report suspicious texts by forwarding the original message to 7726. This spells SPAM on your keypad and is a free service.
Keep your accounts secure: Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, so make sure your accounts are secure by setting up strong passwords. You should also enable two-factor authentication (2FA), where possible, which gives your online accounts additional protection by double checking that you really are the person you claim to be, when logging in.
If things go wrong: Anyone can fall victim to fraud. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online.
For more tips on how to stay safe online, visit East Midlands Cyber Secure at https://www.eastmidlandscybersecure.co.uk/.