Big sales and big scams – What you should be wary of on Black Friday and beyond

Lots of people looking for a deal means that there are also a number of criminals looking to take advantage of those shopping.

Black Friday kicks off a shopping frenzy in the US and that same frenzy is leaking into other parts of the world, particularly here in South Africa.

As many shoppers move their shopping online, criminals have shifted their approach online as well.

Despite cybercriminals developing new and terrifying ways of scamming folks out of money, some attack vectors still prove popular such as email.

Phishing scams have become increasingly complex and unless you are paying full attention, things can slip past you. Take the electronic mailer for instance, these mails seem innocent enough but they can be an effective front for criminals to use.

Mailers containing attachments that require you download them before viewing should be avoided at all costs. Firms are more likely to embed deals directly into emails so they are easier for you to browse.

In addition to this, even if you receive a mailer containing incredible specials, it’s worth heading directly to the website rather than following a link. This is because links can be compromised and you may be heading to a website that looks legitimate but really isn’t.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are major shopping events on the South African calendar, and this makes them a breeding ground for fake specials, malicious links and criminal activity,” explains managing director of security training company Popcorn Trading, Anna Collard.

“There’s always an increase in fake special offers designed to lure people into clicking on a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment. People can end up handing out money for something that doesn’t exist,” the MD elaborates.

A good way to tell if a website is legitimate or not is in the URL. Often criminals will make use of special characters and letter combinations (vv to look like a w for instance) to try to fool users.

New lows

If scamming innocent civilians out of money isn’t scummy enough, how about using charity to do it?

Cybercriminals are not above using charity to trick folks into parting ways with their money. To combat this, folks need to be especially critical of donating to charities during this time.

“At the end of the year, most of us feel the need to give back and fraudsters know it. They set up fake charities that use existing events or trends, such as refugees, and get you to donate the money to them. Only give money to reputable charities that are accredited or well known, check their URLs to ensure they’re not bogus, and never give out your personal information unless you’re 100 percent sure,” advises Collard.

This goes for fundraising websites as well. While many causes are legitimate and there are measures in place to protect those kind enough to donate money, things can slip through cracks.

Once you’re done shopping you may think the danger is over but sadly, cybercriminals are always on the look out and the best time to strike is when you least expect it.

Fake shipping notices are a good attack vector as you likely won’t expect good customer service to be a risk. While downloading a form and filling it in sounds innocent enough that form could be headed for criminals with less than innocent intentions.

That form could also be malicious software that could compromise your PC when downloaded and executed.

Above all, keep your wits about you this shopping season. If an offer seems suspicious get a second opinion or avoid it altogether.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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