Beware the Black Friday debt trap ...

Shoppers queue during Black Friday sales in East London
Shoppers queue during Black Friday sales in East London
Image: Phumza Sokana

Black Friday is just 48 hours away and consumers are already being bombarded with promotional deals and widely advertised offers.

Hilan Berger, who heads institutional business at 10X Investments, said a number of consumers were likely to overspend and quickly find themselves in debt.  “It is worth remembering that hype holidays such as Black Friday are designed to benefit retailers [rather] than shoppers,” Berger said.

Kabelo Teme, spokesperson for the office of the Credit Ombudsman, advises consumers to plan their expenditure prudently and to make provision for the unexpected increase in expenses. Teme said most consumers were likely to increase usage of credit facilities and forget other obligations such as back-to-school expenses that normally came with the new year.

While looking out for good deals, consumers should also be on the lookout for deals which might lead to long-term credit depression, Teme said. “Using credit on Black Friday spending should be the last resort. Rather budget and be disciplined,” he said.

Echoing the Credit Ombud’s sentiments, advocate Kedilatile Legodi from the National Credit Regulator said if you did not plan and budget for Black Friday, you should not use credit because you would not be saving, as credit cost more than the discounts.

“When you buy on credit, you will be liable for related cost such as interest, monthly service fee, once-off initiation fees, credit life insurance and others,” said Legodi.

Those who had budgeted for the day were also not safe as they could fall victim to car hijackings,  warned Charnel Hatting, the national communications manager of Fidelity ADT.

She said in most cases shoppers were followed from the malls and hijacked in their driveways.

“Criminals are aware that these shoppers have a car full of purchased items and are easy distracted targets,” Hatting said. Consumers needed to be vigilant. “If you suspect you are being followed, drive immediately to your nearest police station or your security provider.”

Heino Gevers, a cybersecurity expert at Mimecast, said consumers who would be buying goods online also had to be careful as they were not the only ones taking advantage of Black Friday — cybercriminals were too.

“Considering it’s a one-day sale, you will likely do most of your shopping during office hours, which means it’s not only yourself you could be putting at risk, but your employer as well,” said Gevers.

Tessa Vervwoerdt of Money Solution, a debt rehabilitation centre at Bayport, gave the following tips on how to be a savvy Black Friday shopper:

Plan ahead for Black Friday deals the same way  retailers do; keep a list of goods you need.

It’s a bad plan to pile purchases onto your credit card until it hits the maximum, even worse to increase your credit limit in preparation for Black Friday.

Know your money, how much goes out of your account, your monthly expenses and your balance.

Check your bank statement every month to ensure everything is correct and that there are no unauthorised transactions.

However, if you were planning to buy some Christmas presents and have properly budgeted for them, this is a good opportunity to get them if you have done your homework on the good bargains.