Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide the perfect environment for cybercriminals to launch scams and other malicious activities.
Black Friday is a major shopping event that originated in the United States but has since grown in popularity in the UK. It falls on November 27 this year, but many retailers have already started launching early deals to entice customers to start shopping ahead of the holiday season.
The amount of money spent over this cyber weekend is escalating year on year, and last year in the UK, the public spent a staggering £2.5billion, an increase of 3.4% on the previous year.
Cybercriminals follow the money and this weekend of crazed spending provides them with the perfect opportunity to exploit a large number of people. According to Barclays, nearly a quarter of 18-34-year-olds have fallen for a Black Friday scam in the past five years and shoppers lose on average £661 after falling victim to such frauds.
With attacks becoming more sophisticated, it’s important to be extra cautious when looking for the latest bargains online.
10 Cyber Safety tips to keep you safe online this Black Friday and Cyber Monday
1. Watch out for fake websites
This is one of the most popular ways criminals will try to trick individuals into falling for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams. The fraudsters will clone websites to dupe consumers into thinking they are shopping on a legitimate site. The website may appear almost identical to the real site; however, subtle changes can indicate that all is not as it seems.
A web address that ends in.co.uk may be changed to a .org, images may be pixilated, functions on the site may not work properly and the content will often be sub-standard. It’s always worth double-checking the address of a site to confirm its authenticity.
2. Only use secure sites
Before entering any information into a website, you should always check that the site is safe and secure. The first step is to hover your mouse over the URL and check the validity of the web address. You should look for a padlock symbol in the address bar and check that the URL begins with a ‘https://’ or ‘shttp://’. The ‘S’ indicates the web address has been encrypted and secured with an SSL certificate. Without HTTPS, any data passed on the site is insecure and could be intercepted by criminal third parties.
3. Use a credit card for shopping online
When possible, it’s always best to use a credit card when shopping online as it offers additional protection over other forms of payment. If a fraudulent purchase is made on your credit card, there’s a good chance your bank will reimburse you straight away. However, if a criminal steals your debit card details, they can clear out your personal account and it can be more difficult to reclaim the money.
4. Beware of suspicious emails
Phishing is one of the most popular ways for criminals to steal your personal information and there is always a massive increase in these types of attacks on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The speed, convenience and high return on investment makes phishing one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to steal your personal data without you even knowing.
As Cyber Monday approaches, be wary of any emails offering cash prizes or last-minute deals. These emails are designed to trick recipients into clicking on a link which may appear to come from a well-known retailer. Trust your gut if you think there’s something not right about the email and delete it immediately.
5. Avoid deals that are too good to be true
Black Friday and Cyber Monday feature lots of legitimate deals offered by trusted and reputable retailers. However, cybercriminals know we’ll be scouring the web for the cheapest deals and they take advantage of this by slipping in lots of fake offers.
Be wary of any emails, pop-ups, or posts on social media promising rock bottom prices. Clicking on the link could bring you straight to a phishing site or you may end up downloading malware onto your device. It can be hard to distinguish between a real bargain and a fake so it’s best to do your research to find out if the site is credible or go directly to a brand’s website to determine if the deal is real. It’s always worth remembering that if an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is!
6. Use strong passwords
You’ll have heard it a million times, but creating a strong password really is one of the easiest ways you can protect yourself from being hacked online. With so many passwords to remember, it can be tempting to use the same one for multiple accounts, however, this puts you at great risk of having your data stolen. It’s also important to regularly update your credentials to ensure that your accounts remain secure and to minimise the risk of unauthorized access. If hackers can work out just one of your passwords, whether it’s a Facebook account or online banking details, they can potentially access every single account you have.
It’s always best to use a unique username and password for separate online accounts so that in the unfortunate event of being phished, the attackers won’t have access to your other online accounts. A great way to create a longer and more complex password is to use a passphrase. A passphrase is a sentence like string of words that is memorable to you but difficult for anyone else to crack. The first letter of each word will form the basis of your password and letters can be substituted with numbers and symbols to make it even more secure.
7. Watch out for social media scams
Social media scams are rife on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The crooks know that people are going online to specifically look for deals, so they make it as easy as they can for shoppers to fall for their online scams. Facebook and Twitter tend to be the favoured choice for these malicious posts and criminals will ask shoppers to like and share their posts, so they’re boosted to the top of news feeds and reach a wider audience.
Users tend to be more trusting on social media and it’s often more difficult to determine if a link is malicious than it would be on a more traditional platform.
8. Avoid Public Wi-Fi to go shopping
Using public Wi-Fi to search for the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals could open you up to a range of security risks.
Public Wi-Fi requires no authentication to establish a network connection, allowing fraudsters direct access to any unsecured devices on the same open network. This enables hackers to steal valuable information such as login passwords, credit card info and other personal and financial details.
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can also be used to spread malware allowing cybercriminals unrestricted access to everything on your device. This information can in turn be used to commit identity fraud, or the information can be sold to criminal third parties.
9. Ensure all your software is up to date
Before going online to shop for the hottest deals, you should make sure that all your security software is up to date. This will prevent scammers from gaining access to your computer through vulnerabilities in older and outdated systems. The installation of anti-virus software will also help detect threats on your computer and block unauthorised users from gaining access.
10. Monitor bank statements for fraudulent activity
It’s always worth keeping a close eye on bank statements to make sure there are no unusual transactions on your account. Criminals know that during Black Friday and Cyber Monday there will be lots of online activity, so they hope that any unusual debits from your account will go undetected. Typically, the crooks will make a few initial debits for smaller amounts then go in for a larger amount which could clean out your bank account.