Black Friday scam warning: Top tips for avoiding cybercrime while shopping online for great deals

Black Friday scam warning: Top tips for avoiding cybercrime while shopping online for great deals.
Photo credit: Getty Images (file)

The enticing deals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us, but experts are warning that with them comes an increased risk of falling prey to cybercriminals.

According to Netsafe data, in the period around Cyber Monday 2021 there was: 

  • A 43 percent increase in complaints of 'non-existent products'
  • An increase in identity fraud by 265 percent compared with a normal week 
  • A 500 percent spike in credit or debit card fraud.

This year, the nasty inflation rate and cost of living crisis may make it more tempting to take a risk on an online deal that seems too good to be true, especially with the Silly Season bearing down.

In recent research from cyber safety brand NortonLifeLock, 22 percent of New Zealanders said they tend to take more risks than usual while shopping online during the holiday season. That is despite more than a quarter of those surveyed (28 percent) saying they had already been the victim of a scam during previous holiday seasons. 

Datacom's director of connectivity and security Matthew Evetts said Kiwis spent around $265 million over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period last year, a whopping figure the scammers simply won't ignore.

"Cybercriminals are fundamentally opportunistic and they know there is going to be a whole lot of people online shopping for a deal," Evetts told Newshub.

"The sheer number of transactions is enormous every year over this weekend and the cybercriminals see that is an opportunity to increase their hit rate when it comes to scams, phishing and so on."

So how can we avoid falling prey to scammers? Evetts shared with Newshub his top five tips for protecting yourself from cybercriminals: 

Carefully check URLs

"Fake websites are a major issue, so make sure you carefully check the web address before you buy," said Evetts.

"That goes for addresses in emails and social media as well, not just when you're searching online. Regardless of what the channel is, the web address you buy from is really important."

Ask someone else if you're unsure

"If something feels a little off and you're unsure, ask a friend what they think, or even go back to the manufacturer," said Evetts.

"That little niggle of, 'Oh, I'm not quite sure about this' can often be the telling sign, so ask someone else - the source if possible."

Don't buy if it's 'your only chance' to

"Be aware of this sort of manipulation," he warned. 

"What we see in these short timeframe sales is often people are told, 'Hey you must buy now or you're going to miss out'. So if you're feeling unsure but are being told you must buy now, it's a pretty good sign you shouldn't go ahead."

Always use unique passwords

"We would give that advice at any time, but it's even more important going into this weekend. If you've got a shared password, it only takes you giving that away once and the cyber attacker can compromise your other accounts as well," said Evetts.

Use a password manager

"These enable people to use really unique, complex passwords on all of their accounts," said Evetts.

"Again, this is always good, but if you don't have one now is an ideal time to set one up before being exposed to the increased risk this weekend brings."

It always pays to keep in mind if something seems too good to be true, it probably is and we must not let the excitement of a good deal overtake our commonsense.

Experts also advise the use of a virtual private network (VPN), especially if you are using public or unsecured Wi-Fi.

In addition to using reputable online safety tools, NortonLifeLock's top tips include:

  • Stick to reputable retailers
    Do your due diligence, including checking seller ratings, and preferably purchasing from retailers with a physical address, a customer service phone number and a professional-looking site. Warning signs of sketchy sites include poor spelling, odd design and slow loading
  • Avoid suspicious links from social media ads or unfamiliar emails
    Chasing a bargain? Don't click on suspicious links even if they look attractive. Stay vigilant and don't fall for the cheap price tag
  • If you get a message, an email or SMS about an item you didn't order, stop and think
    If you're unsure whether a message is legitimate, contact the business through established channels you can find, chat through their website or call their customer service phone number
  • Look out for fake websites
    Fraudsters may set up fake websites of products that don't exist so they can collect payments for goods they'll never send. They may even provide "excuses" for a while, so by the time you realise, you might be stuck - out of pocket and missing a gift for someone on your list.

If you want to report a scam or have unfortunately fallen victim to one, get in touch with: