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When Black Friday comes around, ‘too good to be true’ deals suddenly don’t seem that ridiculous. Which can mean that even the savviest shoppers are at risk of being scammed.

At this time of year, fraudsters will take advantage of your appetite for a bargain and spam your inbox with phishing emails, fill up search results with fake shopping websites, and tempt you in with unbelievable deals.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, here’s a quick reminder of the scam warning signs to look out for before you part with your cash.

Look for the padlock

It’s at the top of the search results, the branding looks the same… must be a genuine website, right?

Unfortunately not. Scammers can make close copies of legitimate sites to seem more authentic. They’ll choose a web address which looks similar, such as www.amazononline.com instead of www.amazon.com, pay for an ad at the top of the search results, and make it look the same, but one crucial detail will be missing. The padlock in the address bar.

This padlock symbol means that your connection to the site is secure, and any information you send through the site is private. If you’re on a website which doesn’t have a padlock in the address bar, your information might not be safe.

So no matter how familiar a website might seem, check for the padlock in the address bar before you enter your bank details.

Use known websites

Action fraud deals with 8000 reports of phishing scams each month, and the time around Black Friday is no exception.

Phishing emails are emails which appear to have come from a genuine company, but they contain links or attachments which could be used to steal your information.

Phishing emails are easy to miss when our inboxes get flooded with Christmas messages and order confirmations from genuine purchases. So if you’re after a Black Friday bargain, steer clear of links in emails and go straight to known websites.

Pay with your card

If you use your card to pay for your Black Friday bargains, you’re protected by chargeback as part of the Mastercard scheme.

A chargeback could help you get your money back if you don’t receive items you’ve paid for, if you didn’t authorise a purchase, if a company goes bust, or if you buy goods which turn out to be fake or faulty.

This protection only applies if you used your card. If you pay for something by bank transfer and it turns out to be a scam, you’re unlikely to get that money back. So our advice is to steer well clear of offers which ask you to pay by bank transfer.

Read reviews of retailers and brands

Most legitimate shopping websites have company or product reviews on their site, and therefore many fake websites will too. And these reviews can be a big clue into whether you’re being scammed.

Are all the reviews 5 stars? Do they sound similar? This could be a big giveaway that the product or website is fake. So before you part with your cash, research the company on Google, find reviews on external sites, and see what others have been saying about them on social media.

Look out for dodgy order confirmations

Have you ever checked your email, found an order confirmation from a retailer and wondered if you actually ordered that?

In a flurry of shopping on Black Friday and in the run up to Christmas, it can be difficult to remember all the different sites you bought things from. Fraudsters know that, so they send emails spoofed to look like they’re from legitimate retailers in the hope that you’ll download an attachment to check what you’ve ordered. 

These attachments, sometimes disguised as ‘invoices’ could contain malware which could harm your device or steal your information. So if you’re not sure whether the email was about a real purchase, don’t open the attachment.

Avoid the Black Friday scams

Black Friday can be a great opportunity to grab a bargain in time for Christmas, but it’s also a field day for fraudsters.

So make sure you shop safe on Black Friday by following our scam-busting tips and trusting your instincts – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information about how you can stay safe when shopping online, take a look at the Metropolitan Police’s guide to online shopping scams.

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