Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the busiest shopping period of the year. Aussies wait until the deals start hitting and then rush out to load up on bargains. Lying in wait for them of course are cybercriminals with their freshly updated Black Friday scams.
Last year, Australians lost an average of $1,023 per person in holiday shopping scams, according to newly released data from the digital security company Norton.
“The huge spike in online shopping during the holidays is a huge opportunity for scammers to ramp up their attacks, which are more sophisticated and believable than ever,” Mark Gorrie, Managing Director APAC for Norton, has said.
Finance experts have warned that people often fall for online scams at this time of year because common sense thinking that might suggest something is too good to be true goes out of the window in the face of ‘massive deals’.
“Fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever as technology evolves, and during this busy shopping period, it provides the perfect opportunities to exploit the increased volume of transactions and potentially catch shoppers off guard,” Michael Dinich, founder of personal finance company Wealth of Geeks, has said.
Scams employed are constantly updating and changing so it’s worth updating yourself on what the latest strategies appear to be. However, that’s still unlikely to stop you from falling for the biggest scam of them all.
Black Friday Scams
The most common scams that security companies are reporting this Black Friday include:
Incorrect Bank Details
Scammers will email shoppers to say that their billing information is incorrect and that it needs changing immediately or the order will be void. What they’re trying to do is trick you into entering your bank details into a fake website they’ve made to replicate wherever you were just shopping.
If you get asked to change your bank details with urgency and claims of losing an order, you should be suspicious. Contact the retailer directly so you can verify the email. These messages also come through text.
Hot Deal Scam
Black Friday is full of supposedly ‘hot deals’. Some popular items are advertised on fake websites that can be difficult to access. If you’re looking for a specific item and you only come across it on a dodgey-looking site, you can check the legitimacy of the site on Business Bureau or by finding online reviews. There’s a chance you’ll pay for a product you’ll never receive.
Phishing emails are used throughout the year and Black Friday is no different. These are emails designed to trick you into entering sensitive information into websites or through links that are designed to mimic legitimate services. Experts caution people not to click any links or pop-ups they’re not familiar with and to check that the website they’re on is the real one – misspelt URLs, with strange addresses, and no ‘https’ or locked padlock symbol are ones to avoid.
Fake Tracking Number Scam
A very common scam throughout the year that ramps up on Black Friday. If you’re making frequent purchases, it’s easy to fall for.
Scammers will send an email or a text claiming to show you the progress of an order you’ve made. They’re hoping you click the link so they can infect your device with malware that can scan your personal information. Check your order status directly through legitimate websites to avoid this one.
Grey Market Distribution
A harder one to detect, grey market distribution involves the selling of items that a retailer doesn’t have the right to distribute. Stock may also be coming from less-than-scrupulous sources. Grey market goods can be much cheaper than above-board items, however, your chances of getting an improperly packaged, handled, or returnable product are much lower.
Discount Gift Card Scam
Gift cards are popular presents at Christmas which is why scammers will offer discounted gift cards to unwary customers. These gift cards are either empty or they’re stolen and involved in criminal activity. Experts recommend you only buy gift cards through reputable sources.
The same goes for discounts and coupons received via email or text for huge discounts on gift cards.
Black Friday Is a Scam
While you can try your best to avoid being conned out of your money this Black Friday, much of the premise of the sales themselves relies on bad-faith actors pretending items are cheaper during the sales than they are at other times of the year.
It’s a well-known fact that most Black Friday deals aren’t deals at all. Last year, in the UK, an analysis of sales found that 98% of Black Friday offers were cheaper or at the same price during other periods. Fewer than one in seven items on sale were actually discounted.
There is a lot of marketing and psychology that goes into Black Friday ‘sales’. Consumers are encouraged to spend through advertised stock limitations and time-sensitive discounts.
CHOICE Editor Pru Engel has said that you should always think hard about a deal and whether it’s actually a good bargain on something you need.
It’s important to remember that there are multiple sales periods throughout the year, such as end of financial year and Boxing Day,” she told the ABC.
“Black Friday is just one of them, so don’t feel pressured into thinking this is the only time you’ll get a good sale price.
“A cheap deal isn’t always a good deal, and just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean that you should buy it.”
Analysis by polling company Roy Morgan has found that Black Friday is now the biggest sales event in Australia, with at least a third of the nation taking part. Forecasts estimate we’ll spend $6.36 billion over the coming weekend.
The Reserve Bank of Australia isn’t likely to be too happy about this, given they’ve been ratcheting up interest rates in an effort to combat inflation over the last year and a half. Such additional spending may well push inflation up further, resulting in great ‘fiscal tightening’.
Economic concerns aside, Black Friday sales have significant ecological implications as people get caught up in a spending frenzy. According to Green Alliance, 80% of items bought on Black Friday are thrown away within a few uses, with some going completely unused. In the UK, the increase in deliveries resulted in 1.2 million additional tonnes of carbon dioxide generated last year. Many of the companies driving Black Friday sales, particularly the bigger ones that primarily operate online, aren’t the most sustainable, either. No wonder there is a growing boycott of Black Friday sales, largely driven by smaller, independent retailers.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be useful if you shop tactically, though. Buying only what you genuinely need, after checking that it is actually under a real discount, can help you save money on things you were going to buy anyway.
For the vast majority of sales though, that’s simply not the case. Using it as an excuse to grab all the nice-to-have things you could go without is just getting caught up in the hype. You’d save a whole lot more money by avoiding the thing entirely.