As Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping extravaganzas unfold, a wave of enticing deals and offers emerges, some appearing almost too good to be true. Regrettably, such instances often morph into scams orchestrated by fraudsters aiming to exploit the shopping frenzy. 40% of Americans have encountered online shopping scams, marking a 3% increase compared to the previous year. Findings from a recent survey reveals that an alarming 34 million Americans have fallen prey to these holiday scams during Black Friday or Cyber Monday. 

With the impending surge in online shopping activity, it becomes imperative for consumers to fortify themselves with cybersecurity knowledge to safeguard both their finances and personal information. 

Decoding Deceptions 

Crafty manipulators, scammers adeptly exploit human emotions to further their schemes. They induce feelings of urgency, fear, or stress, exploiting the heightened emotions that accompany the holiday season rush. In the quest for the finest deals and elusive items, individuals often lower their guard, rendering themselves susceptible to these fraudsters. The initial line of defence against falling victim to such scams is acquiring the ability to recognize them. 

Clicking with Caution 

Whether you’re an experienced online shopper or a novice, this guide is designed to assist you in recognizing the current top online shopping scams. Stay one step ahead to ensure a shopping experience that is not only enjoyable but also safer and more secure: 

  • Fake Order Scam: In the rush to seize the finest holiday season deals, managing numerous orders can prove challenging. Exploiting this scenario, scammers deploy fake order confirmations through email or text. Despite appearing genuine, these confirmations may harbor malware or phishing links designed to pilfer your identity. The optimal approach is to monitor your orders directly from the seller’s website or platform. 
  • Tracking Number Scam: Much like the counterfeit order scam, scammers employ deceptive tactics by dispatching fabricated package tracking notifications through email attachments or links. Legitimate retailers never transmit tracking numbers via attachments. Fraudsters utilize these ploys to introduce malware to your device or redirect you to phishing websites. It is imperative to consistently access accurate tracking information for your order directly from the seller’s website. 
  • Bogus Website Scam: Proficient in their craft, scammers adeptly forge email addresses and URLs, mirroring those of reputable companies. These phishing emails frequently direct recipients to scam sites designed to capture login credentials and payment details. Exercise caution by refraining from clicking on email links; a safer practice involves manually entering the URL and conducting your search for deals. 
  • Hot Deal Scam: Scarcity serves as a key tactic for scammers who fabricate websites featuring sought-after items typically in limited supply. Falling victim to these scams may lead to paying for a product that never arrives, with scammers gaining access to your payment details. The Better Business Bureau offers valuable reviews to aid in verifying the authenticity of both products and sellers. 
  • Fake Charity Scam: Amid the holiday season, a spike in charitable donations is observed, a trend that scammers are quick to exploit. They establish fraudulent charities and employ coercive tactics to prompt donations. Exercise caution with organizations that solely accept payments through gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. 
  • Fraudulent Gift Card Scam: Fraudsters have a fondness for gift cards! They utilize emails or text messages to deceive you into believing you’ve received a gift card from a friend or family member. These messages frequently include links that, when activated, install malware on your device or pilfer your personal information. Prioritize source verification before clicking on any links. Additionally, keep in mind that if a deal seems excessively good, it likely carries hidden risks. 
  • Smishing Scam: Smishing, a deceitful practice, involves scammers sending text messages impersonating well-known companies with the aim of coaxing individuals into divulging personal information. Throughout the holiday season, such messages frequently direct recipients to alleged deals or gifts. Yet, these links typically lead to deceptive websites intended to pilfer your data. Approach unsolicited text messages with vigilance and refrain from clicking on dubious links. 

Tips to Avoid Scams 

Holiday deals are already in full swing, but caution is advised – not all the enticing online offers are legitimate. With the commencement of the online shopping season, the season for online scams has officially kicked off as well. 

Here are a few tips on ways to outsmart the online Grinch and ensure a secure shopping experience this holiday season: 

  1. Safeguarding with Netsweeper: Netsweeper serves as a robust web filtering and content control solution, contributing to online security by filtering malicious content, preventing access to phishing sites, and categorizing websites to enable customizable security policies. While it aids in protecting users from scams and fraudulent activities by blocking harmful sites and employing real-time threat analysis, it’s essential to complement these efforts with individual vigilance. Users should remain cautious with personal information, verify website security indicators, and stay informed about common online scams to enhance overall online safety. The combination of Netsweeper’s capabilities and user awareness forms a comprehensive approach to mitigate the risks associated with various online threats. 
  1. Type, Don’t Click: Opt for a secure online shopping experience by using trusted retailers’ apps or manually typing their web addresses into your browser. Steer clear of clicking on links in texts, emails, or online ads. 
  1. Verify Website Security: Secure websites commence with “https,” indicating a protected connection. Additionally, a padlock icon in the address bar further assures security. If these indicators are absent, exercise caution and consider refraining from making purchases on that particular website. 

Amidst the festive cheer, the holiday season unfortunately amplifies the risk of online shopping scams. Safeguarding yourself becomes paramount during this time. Through vigilance and proactive measures, you can confidently navigate the holiday shopping frenzy and shield yourself from potential Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams. Bolster your overall security, privacy, and financial well-being by ensuring your devices are equipped with reliable security solutions. 

Netsweeper collaborates with ScamAdviser and the Global Anti-Scam Alliance to employ comprehensive measures against scams, utilizing tools to assess website authenticity and potential risks while reinforcing a commitment to global anti-fraud efforts. For more tips and tricks on safeguarding yourself against scams, check out our Online Scam Series here