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4 ways to avoid Black Friday scams

If you engage with a scammer, they may steal your credit card information or your identity

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Black Friday shoppers wearing face masks shop at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce, Calif., Nov. 26, 2021.

Black Friday shoppers wearing face masks shop at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce, Calif., on Nov. 26, 2021. Here are four tips for avoiding Black Friday scams.

Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press

Black Friday is nearly upon us. Some might be looking for a brand-new winter coat, others a bigger flat screen TV.

But the one thing these shoppers have in common is their keenness on finding the best deal possible, leaving room for scammers to take advantage.

Scams can be anything from a fake Amazon website to a text message about a refund from someone pretending to be Walmart — and if you engage, they may steal your credit card information or your identity.

With the dawn of Cyber Monday, a version of Black Friday where discounted products can be purchased online instead of in-store, scams have become even more common.

When shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, there are plenty of assurances that the store you’re shopping from is real and wouldn’t steal your information.

The same can be said for online shopping as well.

Cybersecurity expert Christopher Bulvshtein, who works at VPNOverview, listed out four ways to avoid getting scammed in an emailed press release.

Four tips for avoiding Black Friday scams

1. Be mindful of phishing attacks

Bulvshtein describes phishing as one of the oldest tricks in the book, which still works. Scammers simply tailor their emails or text messages toward events like Black Friday.

Phishing is a cybercrime that targets people through email, phone or text messages and lures them into giving personal information, according to Phishing.org.

The scammers will impersonate a legitimate business like Amazon by asking you to update your payment information or updating you on a pending delivery.

The No. 1 thing to do is not click any links within the email. Checking the company’s website directly is the safest way, especially if you suspect you are being scammed.

2. Don’t give out any codes

Another common scam is someone pretending to call from your bank. The scammer informs you that there is a problem with your account. To fix the issue, they say that they are sending you a verification code that will help prove your identity.

“By posing as an official company, they turn the tables on you. You’re put on the spot and expected to prove who you are. Actually, they’re the criminal, and they already have your password,” said Bulvshtein. “That code you’re handing over will allow them to process a payment or log into your account with two-factor authentication.”

He notes that, in these scenarios, banks can be unwilling to refund customers since they willingly hand over sensitive information. If you are engaged with a suspicious caller, hang up.

3. Avoid malicious browser extensions

The cybersecurity expert said that many of these extensions can be considered “browser hijackers.”

“At best, they could change your browser settings and fill your inbox with spam or phishing emails,” he said. “At worst, they could install malware on your device that compromises your accounts and online security in general.”

Bulvshtein advised installing an extension only if it is a well-tested tool.

4. Is it even a discount?

Some websites may increases prices on their products last minute, before applying discounts.

This makes everything look like a good deal, although it is not. In reality, the products are the same price, if not more expensive. Do your research!