November 23rd 2018
As if anybody needs reminding, today is Black Friday. A relatively recent phenomenon in the UK, Black Friday is a US tradition to mark the day after Thanksgiving, allegedly originating in Philadelphia where the term was used to describe heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic after that most famous of American holidays.
Nowadays, Black Friday represents a bonanza for retailers as people begin their Christmas shopping in earnest. Many consumers also consider it a bonanza – a fantastic chance to snap up bargains to go under the tree or treat themselves. And, of course, many retailers – both online and in the high street or shopping park – have been advertising Black Friday bargains for up to two weeks.
But is it as good as it might seem?
Firstly, every year we see an increasing number of warnings about the ‘bargains’ advertised, in that they are often end-of-line, difficult-to-shift lines that retailers merely need to offload. And that many products advertised as ‘cheapest-ever’ are actually sold cheaper after Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), the closer we get to Christmas.
Then, there’s the problem of credit cards being maxed out, fuelled by the hype of bagging a bargain.
The other, more serious warning is that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also one of the busiest times of year for fraudsters. In a blog post today, Kate S from the National Cyber Security Centre warns: “Unfortunately, even in the run up to Christmas, if you see an offer that looks too good to be true - there's a very good chance it's a scam.
“Cyber criminals have a field day at this time of year because they know your guard is a little lower as you rush to bag the bargains. Your inbox is probably full of promotional emails promising the most incredible deals. And when this is the norm, it becomes hard to differentiate real bargains from the dodgy ones.”
How to keep safe on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every other day
Get Safe Online’s experts have compiled a set of tips to coincide with Black Friday and in the approach to Christmas:
- Don’t pay for anything by transferring money directly to people or companies you don’t know, however desperate you are to buy. If it’s a fraud, it’s doubtful the bank will be able to recover or refund your money. The safest way to pay for anything is by credit card.
- Make sure shopping websites are authentic by carefully checking the address is spelled correctly. Fraudsters can set up convincing websites with very similar spelling to the authentic one.
- Ensure that payment pages are secure, by checking that addresses begin with ‘https’ (‘s’ is for secure) and there’s a closed padlock in the address bar.
- When you’ve finished paying, log out of your account. Simply closing the page may not do this automatically.
- Counterfeit goods are of inferior quality, can be dangerous and contravene copyright law, costing the livelihoods of workers who make the real thing. Don’t buy fakes intentionally or get duped into buying them, however cheap or ‘authentic’.
- Beware of ‘free’ or ‘low-cost’ trials – whether slimming pills or the latest tech – without thoroughly reading the small print and trusted reviews. You could be signing up for large monthly direct debits which are difficult to cancel.
- Check that a holiday or travel you book online is genuine by researching it thoroughly. Look for independent reviews, and make sure travel agents / tour operators are genuine by checking for an ABTA/ATOL number.
- Buy concert, event, fixture or entry tickets from official sources such as box offices, sports clubs or reputable fan ticket exchange sites. If you don’t, you could be paying for fake or non-existent tickets.
- Watch out for unexpected emails, texts or posts urging you to click on a link or attachment. For example, at this time of year fake parcel firm delivery messages containing harmful attachments disguised as delivery notes are commonplace.
We wish you a happy and fruitful Black Friday, but please don’t get carried away and think before you click.