New Zealanders warned of increased online scams ahead of Black Friday sales

A woman using a computer and paying with a credit card
Cyberattacks like phishing scams are on the rise. Photo credit: Getty Images

As many New Zealanders get bargain hunting during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, they're being warned to be cautious while shopping online.

CERT NZ reported earlier this year that people in Aotearoa lost $4 million in cybersecurity incidents in the April to June quarter. 

Thirteen of those resulted in losses of over $100,000, with the majority related to scams when buying or selling goods and services online.

Now cybersecurity firm Avast says online shopping scams are expected to rise ahead of Christmas and everyone should be vigilant for things like phishing scams, including email and SMS phishing scams and fake shopping websites.

"The internet is filled with amazing offers around this time of the year and people are often focused on getting the best price for the products they're after," said Stephen Kho, cybersecurity expert at Avast.

"As a result, they spend less time researching the seller, which is where cybercriminals can take advantage with fake shopping websites similar to actual shopping destinations.

"While shopping lists may be long, and the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals may be appealing, we urge New Zealanders to slow down and remain vigilant around what sites they shop on and share their financial information with."

The advice comes just days after local price comparison website PriceSpy warned Kiwis that many tech products were out of stock ahead of the sales.

It found 73 percent of computers and accessories listed on its website are unavailable, with nearly 40 percent of both audio and video goods as well as video games and consoles also out of stock.

The COVID-19 pandemic is largely to blame for creating computer chip shortages as well as knock-on effects in shipping, causing further delivery delays.

That could leave New Zealanders more vulnerable than normal and means vigilance is necessary.

"When shopping online, just remember to check the source, don't click on links if you are not sure of the destination and don't save your payment information," Kho concluded.

Kho's six top tips for staying safe shopping online:

Watch out for fake apps and always go 'official': Only download apps from official app stores such as the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. When it comes to websites, always type the URL into the address bar so you know you are on the official page.

Avoid phishing scams: Look at every deal-themed email in your inbox with a suspicious eye and never click on links contained in them.

Do not store payment info: You want to share, save, and store as little personal info as possible on the internet.

Put a layer between your credit card and scammers: Third-party payment services such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay can give you an extra layer of protection.

Stay anonymous: Using a VPN can hide your IP address and keeps predators from seeing any personal data about you, which prevents them from profiling you.

Compare prices: Before you hit the digital checkout line, open a new tab and look up that same item in other stores to see if the price is similar.