How Can You Avoid a Black Friday or Cyber Monday Scam?

Pittsburgh Consumer Fraud Attorneys at East End Trial Group Assist Clients Who Have Fallen Victim to Holiday Scams.

Each year in the United States, holiday shopping kicks off with massive sales and discounted offers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Anticipated sales are expected to crest more than $207 billion during the 2022 holiday season, many of which will be online.

The volume of online holiday shopping each year draws criminals in droves with scams to commit fraud and identity theft by stealing consumers’ financial and personal information. According to the Better Business Bureau, more than 35 percent of fraud reports in 2021 were online scams.

Online Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams are an easy way for criminals to contact unsuspecting shoppers in order to gain access to credit card numbers and banking information, along with personal information for identity theft crimes. There are many types of scams that can snare consumers, but some of the most common are:

  • Retail scams: Criminals create fake retail websites in order to elicit “orders” from consumers, usually by luring in unsuspecting shoppers with offers of large discounts on popular and hard-to-find gift items. The majority of these sites are developed as imitations of popular online stores and e-commerce websites and can often be difficult to identify as fake. Customers who purchase through fake sites are victims of financial fraud, as criminals now have your credit card and personal information.
  • Social media scams: Popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become open playgrounds to fraudsters, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency reports that during the holiday season, social media sites are rife with legitimate offers, product giveaways, and coupons, and 38 percent of consumers reported making a purchase through a social media advertisement during the last 12 months. Legitimate ads such as these also make it easier for thieves to create their own offers or giveaways that lure victims away from the platforms to cloned websites.
  • Fake order scams: Criminals and con artists send text or email notices to consumers claiming there is a problem with a customer’s online purchase and provide a link for the customer to click and provide information, such as banking credentials. They typically claim to represent large online retailers, such as Amazon, to appear more legitimate in order to persuade the target to click the link and hand over personal information.
  • Missing package scams: Scammers claiming to be from shipping companies, such as USPS or FedEx, send a text or email alerting consumers to a missing package, with a link to track the package, but are really directing them to a site to enter personal and banking information. Some scammers will place missed delivery tags on doorknobs with information to call and verify their information, or a voicemail requesting the same.
  • Gift card scams: Scammers posing as retailers request customers pay with digital gift cards or coupons, as neither payment type is tracked, and customers cannot recoup their money. Once the card information or coupon is used, the scammers have your information and will steal the card’s remaining balance with no ramifications.

The holiday shopping season is the most lucrative time of year for most retailers and cybercriminals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday present two of the best opportunities of the year for online scammers. Millions of consumers around the world are victimized each year. However, with a little know-how, you can protect yourself.

Fake Websites

Cybercriminals who create fake websites do not usually spend an enormous amount of time creating a perfect design, and many telltale signs can usually be found rather quickly. Fake websites often have functionality flaws, such as typos, broken links or pages that load slowly, and no available contact information, such as a physical address, telephone number, or contact email. True commerce websites feature SSL encryption, which allows consumers to pay safely, and their information remains confidential.

Look for “https:” and a padlock icon in the webpage address bar. If neither are present, do not purchase anything from the site. You can also search the business name on the Better Business Bureau website to see if the retailer is legitimate or if the BBB has received multiple consumer complaints.

Use Credit

When making purchases, using your credit card is safer than using your debit card online. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers are protected from unauthorized purchases made with credit cards, meaning the credit card company and retailer are jointly liable for items that fail to arrive, are damaged, or are falsely advertised, and you will be refunded.

Additionally, credit cards are also embedded with EMV chip technology that makes it very difficult for thieves to steal your information. Credit cards are also not tied to your bank account, so should a thief actually gain access to your credit card, they will not also gain access to your bank accounts.

Ignore Links

If you receive unsolicited text or email messages, or messages sent via social media containing links to receive coupon offers or for orders you did not place, resist the urge to click. Scammers use high pressure tactics to disorient consumers into reacting emotionally and quickly and steal your information when you are redirected from the message through the link.

Similarly, avoid clicking on pop-up advertisements on your social media feeds. Using fake advertisements to pull customers to fake websites is one of the most common scams on the internet. Rather than clicking on the link in a message or ad on social media, open another tab and type the name of the retailer given into the address bar search engine to see if a legitimate website exists.

Secure Passwords

Many consumers use the same password for multiple sites and accounts, largely because it is easier than keeping track or trying to remember multiple passwords. However, thieves and cybercriminals are acutely aware of this and are often successful at stealing your information because of it.

Once they gain access, thieves will attempt to use the password for all of your accounts, and if successful, you could suffer losses from multiple sources. Use different passwords for every account or take advantage of services or software that generates random passwords.

Do Not Sign Up

When shopping from an online retailer, most allow you to sign up for an account or shop as a guest. Fraud experts recommend checking out as a guest, especially when you are shopping from multiple online stores. When you sign up, you are providing all of your personal information that could be vulnerable to thieves should the retailers suffer a data breach.

Trust Your Instincts

If an offers sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Seasonal hot-ticket items that are in high demand are often what scammers use to lure in victims. Use caution if you receive an offer for an item at a much lower price.

The majority of credit card companies offer some form of fraud alerts that let their customers know when fraudulent activity on their account is suspected. Typically, you can set up different alerts for different situations, such as charge frequencies, transaction amounts, or locations where purchases are made.

What if You Have Been Scammed?

If you have been defrauded by a Black Friday or Cyber Monday scam, you should do the following:

  • End all communications immediately.
  • Cancel any pending payments.
  • Notify your bank or credit card company.
  • File an official complaint with the legitimate retailer.
  • File a report with the police or the FTC.
  • Consult an attorney regarding your rights and what options may exist for retrieving what was stolen.

You can also file a notice with the social media platform if you were scammed through an ad on the site.

Pittsburgh Consumer Fraud Attorneys at East End Trial Group Assist Clients Who Have Fallen Victim to Holiday Scams

If you have fallen victim to a Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping scam, one of our experienced Pittsburgh consumer fraud attorneys at East End Trial Group can help put an end to the fraud and recoup what is rightfully yours. Call us at 412-223-5740 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.

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