Beware of scammers; faked goods in Black Friday ‘specials’

Shoppers queue during Black Friday sales in East London. Picture: PHUMZA SOKANA
Shoppers queue during Black Friday sales in East London. Picture: PHUMZA SOKANA

Leading up to Black Friday and the days following it, expect your inbox – both on your phone and email – to be flooded with “special offers” that don’t exist, leading you to fake websites where you will be prompted to part with your banking details to fraudsters.

Days like Black Friday present the perfect opportunity for cyber criminals, says regional sales director at US-based cyber security software provider Fortinet, Doros Hadjizenonos. 

If you fall for these phishing attacks you will not receive the goods you ordered – and could also become a victim of identity theft and have your bank accounts cleaned out by criminals, he says.

Phishing attacks can also be carried out through rogue mobile apps, which can also be used to mine for data or install ransomware. Be wary of unexpected invitations to install new apps on your mobile device, Hadjizenonos warns.

Chris Wood, the executive for card issuing and payments at Nedbank, says big shopping days like Black Friday are “fraught with dangers” as consumers who are caught up in scoring a good deal can so easily let down their guard and open themselves to being scammed.

“Many Black Friday deals require quick decisions if you don’t want to miss out, and this sense of urgency is exactly what gets cardholders into trouble, whether through overspending, neglecting basic card safety principles, or falling for scams,” Wood says.

Think before you act, he says. “It’s not just fake retailers who will try to scam you this Black Friday. The heightened shopping activity also results in a spike in criminals who pose as bank representatives and try to manipulate cardholders. 

Don’t ever do your online shopping or banking on a public or unsecured WiFi network. They’re easy for fraudsters to hack into.
Chris Wood, executive for card issuing and payments at Nedbank

“If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, treat the call with suspicion. While it may legitimately be your bank, if the caller asks you for any of your personal or card details, it's almost certainly a scam. No bank will ever ask for you for these details in an email or over the phone,” Wood cautions.

If someone claiming to be from your bank calls you, ask them for their full name and designation, and then call the bank’s fraud department to verify the identity of the caller and the alleged fraudulent transaction(s) on your account(s). 

Don’t call the bank on any numbers provided by the person claiming to be from your bank. Instead, call your bank’s fraud hotline – you should have this number stored on your phone for cases of emergency, such as when you need to block your card or place a hold on your account(s). When you give your bank such an important instruction, you must keep a note of who you spoke to and the time of your call to the bank. 

To maximise the security of your debit and credit cards, Wood offers the following advice:

  1. Protect yourself online. If an online offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Before you hand over your banking details, do some research into the store and read customer reviews.
  2. Don’t click on links to go to shopping sites. Rather type in the web address. That way you know you haven’t been redirected to a fake site.
  3. Before you enter your card or other personal information on any site, look for the lock image in the toolbar and “https” (the ‘s’ stands for secure) in the web address.
  4. Make sure you have the latest, updated antivirus software on your phone and PC.
  5. Don’t ever do your online shopping or banking on a public or unsecured WiFi network. They’re easy for fraudsters to hack into. 
  6. Never give anyone your card. Modern card technology means there should be no reason to give anyone your card when paying. Rather ask for the point-of-sale terminal and insert, swipe or tap your card yourself. 
  7. Never write down your PIN code, or share it with anyone. The most secure place to store your PIN is in your head. If you’re worried you may forget it, put a clue or reminder on your phone that only you will understand.
  8. Avoid sites that require direct payments from your bank, wire transfers, or untraceable forms of payment.
  9. Use your credit and not your debit card to make a purchase, as most credit cards have built-in fraud protection and are not directly connected to your savings account.
  10. Subscribe to your bank’s SMS notification service to be alerted to every transaction. That way you can stop you card after the first fraudulent transaction.