Black Friday and Cyber Monday is upon us, so we know after we scarf down that Thanksgiving meal, it’s time to get ready for some hardcore shopping online or in-stores. Either way, there’s going to be places and people out there trying hard to scam you. They’ve planned all year kn0wing that the holidays are one of the easiest times to scam and rake in your hard earned money.
We’ve researched, and our readers have also alerted us to five of the biggest scams out there this holiday season. Be ready, read and know you’ll be one of the lucky ones who got to avoid being taken this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check here for all the updated store hours of all major retailers.
Keeping checking our Black Friday section as we’ll continually update it along with Cyber Monday for your shopping convenience. You can also check out Amazon’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals here as they’ll keep changing as fast as a Kardashian’s Instagram page.
Dubious delivery confirmations
Many Black Friday shoppers go online to buy their gifts, and scammers know it.
Fraudsters have been known to send out fake emails supposedly confirming the delivery of purchased products but filled with phishing links and virus-filled downloads. This is especially problematic for shoppers who indeed have made online purchases and are awaiting the arrival of legitimate delivery confirmations, but get these phony ones instead.
Before you click on any links within a delivery confirmation email, always check the sender’s email address to see if it’s from the retailer or the delivery service in question. When in doubt, go directly to the store’s website, log into your account and check your order status there.
Finally, keep in mind that deliveries to your door can be a big target for holiday-time thieves who follow delivery trucks and grab packages after the truck pulls away. Track your deliveries and be aware of when a package will hit your porch so you can arrange to get it inside right away, or arrange delivery to your workplace if possible.
It’s something we’ve seen Black Friday after Black Friday, but still the scam persists online phishing. Whether sending to your email inbox or posting in your social media news feed, scammers will undoubtedly pepper you with bogus sale and coupon links this Black Friday.
And it’s not just email or social media — it can extend to text messages, too, according to cyber security giant Norton. Norton reports that some scammers send texts to consumers, pretending to warn them of suspicious activity in their financial account and asking for them to call a bogus number — where they’ll be asked to share sensitive information. And after all the Black Friday purchases you’ve made, you may very well think such an alert is real.
If you receive such a notification, contact your financial institution directly rather than using the number the text provides. That way, you’ll ensure you’re really talking to your bank or credit card company, not a scammer.
Similarly, keep an eye out for vishing. It’s just like phishing, except it occurs over the phone. When unsolicited callers contact you, always ask what business they’re calling from, then hang up and call that institution’s actual phone number listed on its website.
Faux online stores
It’s not just emails and text messages that scammers use to promise fake deals. Black Friday shoppers can also be lured in by phony websites that promise low prices on popular products.
“Beware of pop-up shops that show up around the holidays, as these stores can disappear before you know it,” the Better Business Bureau warned shoppers before Black Friday 2014.
According to the BBB, the best way to counteract this scam is to buy only from retailers you trust and visit only the official websites of well-known and well-established stores. When in doubt, research the store online to find customer reviews. Also, try to locate a phone number and address for a physical store location.
Gift card gimmicks
Gift cards may be one of your go-to purchases, but you may need to rethink these convenient gifts.
If you buy gift cards on Black Friday from third-party sellers, you could be greeted with a counterfeit product, used gift card or none at all. Rather than risking buying from unknown online sellers, buy directly from the retailer itself — or, for the convenience of one-stop shopping, from a grocery store’s display of multiple retailers’ cards.
Finally, while some of the biggest deals you’ll see this Black Friday will come from retailers, some of the biggest pitfalls will, too.
While not necessarily a “scam,” Black Friday exclusions are one more thing to watch out for. Shoppers often fall for promises of big sales and deep discounts before finding out the product they want isn’t eligible for the promotion or it requires a mail-in rebate in order to receive the price. Not all sales are as sweeping as they seem.
Major retail stores will pull out all the stops this Black Friday, offering free shipping, percent-off discounts and more. But always read the fine print. For instance, Macy’s is giving 2015 Black Friday customers coupons for $10 off a purchase of $25 or more or $20 off a purchase of $50 or more, but these discounts only apply to select sale and clearance apparel and home items. They also can’t be used on doorbusters or deals of the day.
Tips for safe and savvy Black Friday shopping
Regardless of when, where or how you shop, follow these tips to stay safe this Black Friday.
● Know your deals. Plan out your deal-shopping strategy before you step foot in any store. Review a retailer’s Black Friday advertisement so you know exactly when a sale will be available (some deals only last for a limited time) and how many units will be offered (some doorbusters are sold in extremely limited quantities).
● Keep your financial information secure. When shopping online, only make transactions over a secure Internet connection (look for the “https” at the beginning of the website’s URL). No matter where you shop, use a credit card instead of a debit card so you can dispute any suspicious charges.
● Read the return policy. Before you buy anything on Black Friday, do a little research. In the event your item turns out to be less than satisfactory, you’ll need to know if, how and for how long you can return or exchange it. Return policies will differ from store to store and by type of product.