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Five tips to avoid Black Friday scams

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

On 27 November, thousands of Britons will be logging on to online retailers or heading out to local shopping centres to enjoy ‘Black Friday’.

This ritual originated in the US and has become popular in the UK in recent years too. This year, UK consumers are expected to spend over £1bn on the day, research reveals.

However it is very important to think seriously about your security. In 2014, £12.4m was made from online shopping scams during the Black Friday and Christmas period alone.

This year 30 per cent of Britons plan to spend money on Black Friday, a drastic increase on 2014’s figure of 8 per cent. This means many new Black Friday shoppers are at risk. Without extra due care and attention, this year’s percentage of Black Friday scams could be sent flying.

To help you stay safe this Black Friday, here are five handy tips.

Check the website you are buying from

Often on the web you will come across sites offering branded items at cheap prices. Sometimes, these websites are advertised in banners or hiding in the deep, dark corners of Google Search.

Black Friday will most likely see websites like these advertised. Some will have been made in a hurry to attract people, and will be illegitimate. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes in the website’s copy should ring alarm bells, as will poor brand images. Some scam websites hide behind URLs that look superficially legitimate – for instance,

Use a secure server

Ensure the website’s URL starts with HTTPS not HTTP, as this indicates a secure page. Legitimate sites are generally (but not always) secure, but illegitimate sites never are.

When you purchase goods from a trusted website, after you have typed in your card details, it will link you to a secure server. Secure servers often come in the form of ‘Verified by Visa’ or ‘Paypal’. If your payment doesn’t go through one of these, you could be in trouble.

Transferring money through an unknown server or to an unknown person is one of the biggest online dangers. As you could be paying money to someone for an item that may never arrive. Best play it safe and stick to websites with secure servers.

No matter how cheap and tempting Gucci handbag deals may seem, if the seller wants the money directly paid to a personal account, it is not worth the risk.

Keep your accounts safe

Around Black Friday and Christmas time, there is a much higher risk of account passwords being stolen.

We all have a place in our phones, in notebooks or minds, where our passwords are kept.

Make sure you do not end up a victim of password fraud. If you remember to change your most used passwords once every month it will reduce your chances of having your accounts hacked into by unwanted pests.

Be sure to frequently check your email account and trash any of those nasty spam types. Beware of clicking on any links within emails which may lead to scam sites too. If you don’t trust it, bin it.

Is your firewall up to date?

You can never be too careful when checking your internet security and firewall. A firewall protects you from viruses and anything fraudulent you might pick up along the way.

Before you plan on doing any spending this Black Friday, head into your security settings and check all your safety instalments are up to date. It’ll only take 10 minutes.

It would also be best to make your purchases on a home computer. This way, you know your security is sufficient. Making purchases on a shared internet server in a cafe or in a workplace could put you at risk if you are unaware if it is fully secure.

Make purchases with a credit card

Using a debit card to make a purchase online puts you in potential danger, as the card is linked directly to a personal account. If you ever have problems with a purchase or your card number gets stolen, a debit card becomes vulnerable as the hijacker will have full access to your balance.

On a credit card, you are spending a specific amount of loaned money from your bank. Every purchase has to be approved by the bank, too. If your credit card is used to make a fraudulent purchase, or without your permission, inform your bank and they will cancel the payment. Keep your debit card safe for a different day.

Shane Forster is UK manager for Voucherbox.