Black Friday: When is a deal too good to be true?

black friday cyber scamsBlack Friday, the American sales phenomenon that allegedly marked the time of year when retailers began to make a profit – moving from the ‘red’ to the ‘black’ – has increasingly become a fixture on bargain hunters’ calendars across the world.

Not restricted to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, the likes of Amazon, Dell, Microsoft and many more have already launched online Black Friday campaigns to encourage purchases of discounted goods. The advertising emails sent out by these retailers provide the perfect template for a convincing phishing attack.

To avoid being duped by Black Friday cyber scams it is essential that consumers look out for signs that an email may not be authentic. And, while it’s easy to say that ‘if it seems too good to be true, it usually is’, that’s little comfort for consumers in search of a good deal, weighing up the credibility of a sales email they’ve received. So, what should you be looking for?

Complete this survey to win a reward!

Consumers should avoid these scams and know that the ‘reward’ will not be delivered. While the survey may look legitimate, its intention will be to collect information that can be sold on or posted to the dark web. Not only does this compromise the security of consumer information, putting it at risk of use by other cybercriminals, it may also begin a barrage of advertising emails.

90 percent percent off top of the range TV!

Black Friday deals can be good, but rarely do they offer 90 percent off the original price. Consumers should be wary of these impossibly good deals as often they indicate something untoward.

While this is often the first red flag, the second should be the URL. Often the email will link through to websites that are non-secured, using an IP address instead of a domain name. From here, cybercriminals have complete visibility and control over any details entered into the website. Whether they’re harvesting usernames and passwords to sell on, or encouraging the consumer to ‘buy’ the 90 percent TV with the intention of pocketing the money, neither spells good news.

Staying one step ahead

It’s true that hackers are becoming more sophisticated and it can be difficult to identify a sophisticated phishing attack. That said, there are some tell-tale signs of a cyber scam and some relatively simple changes to behaviour that can allow internet users to stay one step ahead.

You may not be on the original manufacturer’s website, but ensure that the website you are buying from is reputable. If you haven’t heard of the site before, it could well be a fraud. A Google search of the website may highlight user reviews that can indicate how legitimate the site is or, if you’ve been redirected to the website from an email, be sure to check the URL – are you where you think you are? Checking that the site begins with ‘https’ rather than ‘http’ is also important. The ‘s’ stands for secure and a green lock should also be visible with green text in the browser address bar to indicate that the site owner has been verified and any credit card information will be protected with encryption.

Ultimately, shoppers shouldn’t fear online Black Friday deals, but they do require a security savvy eye. It’s important to keep in mind these simple steps for checking authenticity online as they may not only prevent you from falling victim to a Black Friday scam, but any number of phishing campaigns they make their way into your inbox.