There's no time for scratching your head and wondering where this year went, as Christmas 2016 is just over five weeks away! But before that, two of the busiest online shopping days of the year are almost here – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The two shopping extravaganzas adopted from the US have been slowly increasingly in popularity here in the UK. Black Friday – landing on the 25 November – was traditionally a day for in store offers, but has since moved its way online as well. Cyber Monday comes three days later and sees online retailers slash their prices.
With that in mind, it's important to make sure you don't fall victim to a fraudster when shopping around for bargain buys – here's how to stay safe online.
Protect yourself online
The UK lost a total of £10.9bn to fraud and cybercrime in the 12 months to April, according to the prevention group Get Safe Online. This is an average of £210 per adult.
While this loss is over an annual period, there can be more of a threat of online fraud in the build up to the festive season. To make sure you don't end up out of pocket on Black Friday, take note of the following safety tips.
Do your research – it's best to use websites you know and trust. But if you click on a website you've never seen before, look at it closely. You should watch out for any spelling mistakes or poor image quality as these can indicate that the site was rushed together. Click off if you spot anything suspicious.
Be wary of out-of-the-blue emails – you should be cautious of any unsolicited emails that prompt you to click on a link. Hover over the URL and the genuine address will show up in the left hand corner of the screen. Alarm bells should start to ring if you want to click on www.johnlewis.com but the URL shows as www.johnlewis1.com.
Look for a secure site – check that the site is secure by looking for the HTTPS in the URL of the payments page and the padlock symbol in the address bar. If the site doesn't have these features, don't enter your financial details.
Stranger danger – never transfer money to someone you don't know. Instead, use online secure payment systems like PayPal, as it comes with added security like Buyer Protection.
Protect your computer – make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software. There are some free software options available like Panda Security and AVAST. Be careful at Wi-Fi hotspots, as public Wi-Fi can be easily compromised.
Use your credit card – buying items on your credit card gives you protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means you'll be able to claim through the retailer or credit card provider for any purchases between the value of £100 and £30,000 that turn up faulty or not at all.
Check your balances – keep an eye on your bank and credit card account balances. This will help you spot any fraudulent activity under your name. You can get a free credit report through Noddle or ClearScore or Experian's CreditMatcher.
Be safe in store
Thinking about heading in store on Black Friday? Make sure you stay safe on the day by taking a few precautions. Check the opening times of the stores you're planning on going to and see if there's any previews of the deals so you can budget what you want to spend.
Remember though, Black Friday bargains can send shoppers into a frenzy and there's no point putting yourself in harm's way when you can get the same deal online.