As the holiday season begins, cybercriminals are preparing to launch their annual barrage of attacks on unsuspecting businesses and consumers. Each year, reports of scams and online fraud cases increase during Black Friday. In 2019, the number of cyberattacks grew by 275%. With many deal-hunters turning toward online shopping, it’s never been more important to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft. 

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Black Friday and Online Fraud

According to experts, holiday sales reports in the U.S. will hit $207 billion this season. This figure is potentially record-breaking, and a large portion of this revenue comes from sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers are notoriously eager for the discounts available at this time of year; unfortunately, scammers use this to their advantage.

Cybercriminals are leveraging recent supply-chain issues to advertise limited or out-of-stock items with false ads and emails. Scammers even send false shipping notifications to consumers after legitimate purchases, tricking them into reentering payment information to verify a transaction. These criminals pose as actual retailers to make shoppers believe the messages are coming from a legitimate source. Dangerous scams like this are more popular than ever, and it’s important to be on the lookout for the telltale signs.

Signs of a Black Friday Scam

  1. Spelling errors or typos.
  2. Broken code is visible in emails or on a website.
  3. Design that’s inconsistent with the rest of the brand. 
  4. Their profile or website doesn’t have a lot of content.
  5. Low-quality images in emails or on a website.
  6. No customer service information.
  7. Offers are “too good to be true.”

Scams on Social Media

Cybercriminals have begun using social media to target unsuspecting customers. Platforms like Instagram are full of fake profiles and bots impersonating small businesses. Many scammers create shops that feature content stolen from other accounts in an attempt to seem legitimate. During the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season, these fake accounts are more common than ever. 

Spotting these false storefronts can be challenging, but their profiles often have a few indicators. Social media scam accounts are usually new and have fewer posts than a normal retailer. Some fake profiles will have links in their profile that redirect to websites unrelated to the brand. Each store scam has a different approach, but they all have one thing in common: they want to steal your information

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Missing Package Scams

Frauds are rampant during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and they adapt to different sales trends each year. The latest scam on the market involves texts and emails related to fake missing packages. Criminals rely on the volume of sales that large retailers receive each year to trick consumers into opening phishing messages from companies like Amazon and Wal-mart.

This particular scheme involves customers clicking on links that appear to be related to their recent order. These messages are often worded to make victims believe that there is an issue with the delivery of their package and provide a link for them to click. If you receive a suspicious message referencing a missing package, visit the website where you made the original purchase and check the status of your order. 

Protecting Yourself from Black Friday Fraud

The easiest way to keep yourself safe during Black Friday and Cyber Monday is to never give away your personal information. Keeping your personal information secure involves more than just shopping on reputable websites. When you use unsecured public networks or shop online without additional security, your private data is more susceptible to attacks. 

When shoppers flock to malls for Black Friday shopping, scammers are close behind. Cyber attacks over public WiFi networks are much more common in crowded locations, making Black Friday a perfect target for malicious hacking. Of course, online shopping has similar risks. One of the most reliable forms of privacy and protection is using a VPN.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows you to reroute your IP address through an encrypted server. This masks your location and adds another layer of security between you and the cybercriminals attempting to access your private data. Using a VPN on your favorite device is a great way to protect your personal information during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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