The same online safety tips bear repeating every year-end e-shopping season, because scammers will be extra vicious during the pandemic!

In years gone by, Black Friday was a 24-hour rush to the shops (you remember those places with actual people and merchandise that you could touch) where there was a set time for you to grab a bargain.

People arrived at the shops the night before, waiting in line for the doors to open. Then, in 2005 the clever people at the National Retail Federation decided that an online frenzy of shopping was needed the Monday after Thanksgiving. We know this Monday as Cyber Monday.

In 2008, Cyber Monday hit the bigtime as Thanksgiving fell five days later than in 2007 so the people were hungry for the online deals. The anticipation of the online deals created a frenzy and launched Cyber Monday into the stratosphere. Over time, Black Friday became Black November as retailers cashed in on the sales and consumers obliged.

What is in store this year?

Today, in 2021 as we fast approach these two shopping events, it is a very different landscape.

Black Friday is no longer the event it once was, and Cyber Monday has lost its shine in many ways. Retailers have their cards on the table for us all to see and the headlines of ‘The Best Deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021’ are coming thick and fast… and so are the scams.

Tips to avoid being scammed

  1. Do your research on what you want to buy, but buy only official websites: ignore anything that comes to you via email, SMS or a pop-up ad.
  2. There will be an increase of emails, notifications, pop-up ads with amazing deals all asking you to CLICK on something or OPEN something to access the deal. Unfortunately, many of these will be fake and scams so pay close attention and do not click!
  3. Use a third-party payment service that gives you an extra layer of protection. You can also get yourself a gift credit card or a separate credit card that is only used for online transactions.
  4. Do not use free public Wi-Fi for your e-shopping as it is not secure. If you must, get a VPN (virtual private network) subscription that grants you privacy and protection while you are online via the public internet.
  5. Be aware of parcel delivery scams via email and SMS warning you of fictitious “delivery failures”. Always go to the official website to track parcels.
  6. Make sure not to reuse passwords and login details for your online accounts. Using the same email address is fine—however, do not ever reuse your passwords.  If there are too many to remember, you can write them down or ideally, get yourself a password manager tool.

What about retailers?

This is serious business for the cybercriminals, so retailers must protect your systems, customers and even vendors as a priority.

  1. Patch your software and check that your networks are protected from vulnerabilities.
  2. Take your employees through security awareness training to avoid falling for scams and social engineering attacks in both their personal and professional lives.
  3. Make sure all your employees know what to expect in relation to paying invoices or transferring money.  If they do not understand what a Business Email Compromise (BEC) is, the chance of them falling for one is very high.
  4. Educate your customers on what to look out for, to avoid being scammed. Have a page on your website dedicated to communicating with customers on any scams that have been reported.
  5. Use social media channels to keep customers up to date with scams and use such platforms to educate them about staying safe online.
  6. Educate customers in your physical stores to stay safe online and offline.

Just remember that it really is the same message every year. Awareness of the problem is the first step in avoiding falling for these scams and you have started that journey.