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Shoppers warned of fake deals around Black Friday hype

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

Online shoppers hoping to bag cheap Christmas presents during the annual Black Friday sales are warned to be on guard against scams, and to check whether they’re really getting a good deal.

Black Friday is a post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas shopping extravaganza native to America which has now gone global and sees bargain hunters battle it out for cut-price deals. This year it falls on Friday 25 November.

After last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Barclays said it saw a 34% rise in purchase scams, with customers losing an average of £1,072.

But with nine in 10 Brits relying on Black Friday to do all or some of their Christmas shopping and with half of us heading online, Barclays said it leaves people more vulnerable to fraudsters.

It revealed the proportion of scams taking place on tech platforms such as purchase or auction sites, as well as on social media, or dating apps, has increased 71% since the beginning of 2021.

As shoppers are expected to spend an average of £200 this Black Friday, Barclays urges bargain hunters to be on guard, particularly as a third of people it polled said they feel pressured to buy something as quickly as possible to make sure they get the best deal.

One in five (17%) admitted to shopping on sites they’d not heard of before where they found good deals.

‘False offers lure shoppers in’

Ross Martin, head of digital safety at Barclays, said: “Whilst Black Friday is a great way for Brits to save money ahead of the Christmas season, it is important to stay vigilant when making purchases.

“This year more than ever, people will be looking for the best bargains, which could lead them right into the hands of scammers, who will be advertising false offers to lure victims in.

“Just remember – ignore any pressure that is being put on you – and if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Barclays urged buyers to follow these four steps this Black Friday.

  1. Do your due diligence: Research and read reviews to check the site and the seller are genuine.
  2. View the item: If you can, view the item in person first to make sure it exists, especially if it’s a big purchase, like a smartphone or even a car.
  3. Get a second opinion: Always speak to someone you trust for a second opinion, whether it’s a friend, family member, or your bank.
  4. Be wary of unlikely offers: Many purchase scams offer huge discounts that you wouldn’t normally find at retailers you would normally trust. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Prices rise before they come down

Meanwhile, separate research by price and product comparison service PriceSpy revealed that Black Friday “has been plagued by fake sales in recent years”.

It said on average over the last three Black Fridays, 13% of products actually increased in price between 1 October and the Sunday before the big sale day, and were then ‘reduced’ on Black Friday.

This year, it said it has seen shops steadily increasing prices over the last month, with almost a quarter of products rising in price in October. For 12% of products, they’ve risen by 10% or more.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, UK country manager at PriceSpy, said: “October’s price activity is a cause for concern, most notably for those shoppers who are pinning their hopes on securing genuine bargains on Black Friday to help spread the cost of their Christmas.”

“Not only may shoppers not get the level of discounts they’re looking for on Black Friday, they might inadvertently end up paying more for products than if they buy at a different time.”

However, its data revealed that on average over the last three Black Fridays, four in 10 (42%) products were cheaper on Black Friday compared to the start of November. With average savings of just over a fifth (21%) when looking at products with discounts above 10%.

Matinvesi-Bassett added: “Despite disingenuous deals, for those wanting to snap up bargains in the run up to Christmas, Black Friday is the best day of the year to do so. As long as shoppers keep their wits about them by checking the price history of a product, as well as comparing prices in real time, they can indeed get some great offers on the day.”