Finance Consumer Black Friday: How to protect yourself against costly online scams

Black Friday: How to protect yourself against costly online scams

Black Friday is the most prolific time for sales – and a field day for online scammers. Photo: TND
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Shoppers have been urged to triple check before entering their banking details on online shopping stores as scammers prepare for the busiest sales period of the year.

And the stakes have never been greater, with research from Australia Post finding that 900,000 households shopped online for the first time in their lives between March and August.

With the frenetic Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales just weeks away, it has created the perfect storm for cyber criminals to strike.

But plenty of shoppers seem unfazed.

Recent findings from computer security firm McAfee found that despite half of Australians believing the holiday season was the most prolific time of year for online scams, 48 per cent said they would still use online stores to spread festive cheer.

That’s despite the number of cyber crime threats increasing 12 per cent, to roughly 419 per minute, between April and June, according to McAfee.

McAfee cyber safety ANZ ambassador Alex Merton-McCann said crime usually spikes during pre-holiday sales because shoppers are distracted by the legwork to finalise their plans.

“We’re so consumed with planning Christmas events, ticking off our to-do lists and buying presents online that we often don’t have a minute to stop and think about whether we are taking unnecessary risks,” Mr Merton-McCann said. money specialist Taylor Blackburn told The New Daily once-in-a-lifetime deals that sound too good to be true are often just that.

“People are primed to be looking out for those incredible savings, but that hope and anticipation opens people to up sometimes being taken advantage of,” Mr Blackburn said.

“But if something sounds unbelievable, like a flat-screen TV that’s selling for $20 or $4 for a brand-new iPhone, those offers should be ringing alarm bells instantly”.

According to ACCC Scamwatch, 6989 online shoppers were swindled out of more than $6.8 million this year to October, with the number of reports spiking since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And over last year’s festive sales period, customers lost more than $750,000 to online scams.

Revolut Australia CEO Matt Baxby told The New Daily that first-timers should remain vigilant as they have had less exposure to the increasingly sophisticated ways scammers try to nab consumers.

But, like the scammers themselves, shoppers can fortify their defences with high-tech means, he said.

People less exposed to online shopping in the past are in the crosshairs of scammers,” Mr Baxby said.

“Take email inboxes, for example: It’s a proliferation of retailers’ offers and it’s easy to let your guard down to click on a phishing email that looks very similar to a retailer’s official email that’s actually designed to steal your personal information.

“It’s a combination of common sense and vigilance, but at the same time taking full advantage of new technology that’s coming out because the reality is the scammers are doing the same thing.”

Top tips to avoid getting scammed on Black Friday

  1. Visit the retailer’s site directly: Scammers can create bogus sites to replicate the look of a retailer to fool shoppers. Links to these sites may also appear through fake deals on social media, text messages or in Google searches
  2. Never skim-read emails: Scammers know shoppers don’t check for details, and a common tactic is replicating retailers’ emails with code that steal shoppers’ credit card information when they buy online
  3. Don’t overshare with unknown sources: Always keep your personal details (i.e. what you use for security questions) private, and never share information with someone you don’t know. This includes phone numbers, dates of birth, and even the name of your pet
  4. Be attentive to changes on your devices: Keep track of new updates for your devices – whether it be your smartphone or computer. And if you have notifications switched on to alert when you have made a purchase, check for any unusual transactions
  5. Consider disposable payment methods: Some providers now offer disposable virtual cards that have a one-time use, before details are destroyed and the card number is replaced. This makes it impossible for the card to be used by scammers.

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