Black Friday & Cyber Monday: Safety Before Sales

Practical tips on how to stay cyber safe this shopping season.

With Black Weekend here and Cyber Monday nearly upon us, a vast majority of us are looking to score some of those long awaited items that we’ve had our eye on all year. The only problem is, you are not the only one looking to bag a good deal this week. Consumers around the globe fall prey to a series of scams over this season by cyber criminals looking to score big too. Every sales season is like a minefield of offers and discounts, but if you let your guard down or get too hasty, you might be spending and losing far more than you expected.

This sales season, we have included 3 tips to make sure you don’t get more than you bargained for this Black Friday:


1. Look out for e-skimming

Card skimming is no longer constraint to point of sale devices or ATM's in which your credit card information is gathered as you swipe. It can work in the same way online, in the form of malicious code installed on a retailers website. According to TSB, although there is an upward swing in online scamming activities, an astonishing 86% of consumers continue to not take the precautionary step of verifying the website before checking out their cart. Cyber criminals take advantage of rushed situations where we are less likely to think things through before surrendering our credentials. 

Rule of thumb: Think before you click. While we are busy pocketing these great deals, always ensure that they are legitimate sites by being wary of spelling or grammar mistakes in URL or on the website, and where possible, pay using a third party such as PayPal, Venmo or Amazon.

2. Beware of Phishing Mails

The season is here to be inundated with mass amounts of newsletters and mailers broadcasting their biggest deals. But, before you get excited about them, make sure to be on the lookout for anything that looks suspicious, both in terms of their offering and their links. Some phishing emails are designed to replicate a legitimate retailer's newsletter, but host malicious code in the links, or they direct you to a fake portal requesting your information. If you see an offer you like, rather search for the retailer directly online. In the same way that you should not click links, you should definitely not open any attachments. Retailers would not hide their offerings in attachments, but it makes the perfect place for a hacker to hide malware. In terms of the offering, be suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true, because it usually is.

Other scam tactics are emails sent from a cyber criminal impersonating the major shipping companies such as DHL, or banks denying your payment and directing you to a false site requesting you to login to your online banking. 

3. Avoid Public Wifi

Maybe you've used up all of your mobile data online shopping and you now find yourself in a situation where there is an unsecured, free, public wifi hotspot and that limited time sale absolutely cannot wait. Well, connecting to a public wifi can put you in a very dangerous position. Simply put, there is a possibility for a hacker to easily compromise the network and gain access to every piece of information that you shared, including the data which is supposed to be encrypted. In other words, this could expose your credit card details and make you lose far more money than you have saved from the sale. Our advice is don’t connect to public network, and if you absolutely must, do it by way of a Virtual Private Network or VPN.

So just remember, while you are out there shopping around for an absolute 'no-brainer' deal, try not to become one. 

Bayley Benton

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