For some, Black Friday is the holiest of holidays. Enthusiasts line up on Thanksgiving day (or days prior), hoping to get the best deals they can.
On the craziest shopping day of the year though, there are some folks out there that take advantage of the excited and rushed shoppers. They’ll steal your credit cards, scam you out of your money, infest your computer with malware, and ruin your holiday experience. Don’t let them take advantage of you by being an aware and informed consumer, and by taking extra steps to protect yourself.
Beware of “Leaked” Black Friday Ads
Just like every other major holiday, people get excited for Black Friday weeks in advance. But, instead of decorating the house with trees and lights, Black Friday shoppers start researching what deals they can expect on the long-anticipated day. Every year, starting in the first week of November, lots of people start searching for leaked Black Fridays deals so they can decide early on where to put their time and money.
The thing is, cyber criminals and hackers know this too. They will build websites that appear to focus on informing shoppers about deals or news, and then claim they have the leaked Black Friday ads of major retailers.
What they actually have is tons of malware designed to infect your devices. Either the site will have malicious ads that infect your computer, or require you to download the “ad” that is actually malware in disguise.
To protect yourself from catching a virus, look for some clues as to whether the site, and the ad, are legitimate. The first clue is the name and URL of the site. If the URL is something bizarre like “reallycooldeals4u.info” it’s likely not a real website, and was only designed to scam you.
If a site passes that test and you find an ad you want to check out, first do a quick search online for other sites that can confirm it was leaked. If a major retail store’s ad was leaked, it would be on major news sites, and possibly on the retailer’s site itself.
Credit Card Skimming
The risk of credit card theft is always higher when large groups of people gather and make rushed purchases. Because of the hectic nature of Black Friday, a criminal could hook up a credit card skimmer somewhere are get dozens or hundreds of credit card numbers before the device is found. Staff are too busy to check their devices, and shoppers are moving so quickly they don’t have time to be suspicious. It’s the perfect formula for credit card fraud.
The first step to preventing this from happening to you is slowing down when checking out. Take your time examining anywhere you swipe your debit or credit card, especially at any self-checkout stations. If the device looks strange, has a weird attachment, part of the machine is off-color or doesn’t match the wear and tear of the rest of machine, consider walking away. You can always go to another checkout stand, or ask to talk to a manager about it. Taking 15 seconds to examine your surroundings can go a long way to protecting yourself.
Another scam that might be done is a person posing as an employee of a store and offering to check you out “remotely.” The idea is enticing, not having to stand in a long line, and thanks to tablet and mobile payments, completely plausible. All a scammer would need to do is dress like an employee and walk around to people standing is massive lines, offering to check them out right there. Use judgement in these scenarios, and be willing to take the extra time to scan your card at a proper checkout stand. Do your part to avoid credit card fraud.
If you think you have fallen victim to credit card theft, act quickly. Start monitoring your credit and inform both the credit card provider and credit bureaus what has happened. Work with them to get your credit card cancelled and hopefully get the theft caught.
Be a Smart Shopper
It’s not just criminals that are taking advantage of the Black Friday holiday. Many stores take advantage of their shoppers by claiming something is a deal when it isn’t, enticing floods of customers into their stores by promising huge deals when they only have two of the product, or swapping out items for similar ones of a lower quality.
Leading up to Black Friday, look through the inventory of stores you are likely to visit and take note of prices. You might notice pricing for very popular items going up, at which point the price will get discounted on Black Friday, but won’t drop much below the normal price due to the recent increase.
If a store is pushing what appears to be a very nice product for a lower price, do some research on it first. Some companies produce lower quality, but impressive, items for Black Friday just for the sole purpose of selling them for a low price. For example, many TV companies will make a low quality TV with a huge screen and sell it for a low price. They’ll still make a profit selling it because they didn’t spend much making it, but the customer thinks they got a great deal. Look up model numbers and see if the product is what they normally produce, or a “Black Friday version.”
Finally, if a deal is too good to be true, don’t expect to get it unless you plan on camping out for it. The new smartphones being sold for $100? Those are all bought by the first four people in line who have been waiting for a whole week. Don’t waste your time pursuing those deals unless you are planning on doing the work to get them.
If you want to stay safe, you need to patience and caution. The safety of you and your money is more important than saving a few dollars. Take your time, examine your surroundings, be skeptical of everything even when it gets chaotic, and don’t let yourself feel rushed (it will only lead to making mistakes).
Using your credit card on Black Friday? Check out our spending tips and guides at the resource and learning center.
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