British internet users lost £4.6bn to hackers in 2017, with fraud costing our whole country £190bn over the year. As online shopping increases, consumers are increasingly being targeted, with Action Fraud finding a 4% rise in retail and consumer fraud being reported in 2017. Indeed, Citizens Advice reported in 2017 that almost three-quarters of people have been targeted by scammers in the past two years.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s only vulnerable elderly people who fall for these digital scams. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau found that men aged 31-40 are the most likely demographic to be victims of online fraud, most often being duped by low prices for high-end goods, such as cars and expensive trainers. Don’t let that be you for 2018.
While the year might be almost at an end, we now are entering dangerous territory. Record numbers of us shop online during the cut-price frenzy of Black Friday, with figures showing that November 2017 was a far better month for spending in the UK than December [ONS]. Unfortunately, this makes November the prime season for online scams. Now more than ever we must be taking care to ensure our cash is being exchanged for goods and not heartache when we shop online.
Read on for some practical advice on how to keep secure while hunting for Black Friday bargains this year:
- Don’t believe the hype: Scams can come via emails and text messages, so scrutinise all correspondence you receive carefully and don’t believe anything that sounds too good to be true. Never click on a link in an email or message if you have any cause for suspicion.
- Stick to store websites: Buy your goods directly from the store website rather than via any re-seller sites. Check the domain name of the site you are accessing carefully and avoid any website that looks irregular or unusual.
- Secure your accounts: Protect your email and bank accounts with robust passwords and two-factor authentication before you start spending any money online. A password manager can help you keep track of passwords and devise intriguing new ones to keep your accounts secure.
- Flash the credit card: If you have one, use a credit card to make your purchases. This gives you the opportunity to confirm the transactions again before you settle your credit card bill. It can also make it easier to recover any money lost to scams.
- Be a detective: Research and check every great offer you come across before you spend, and keep up to date with which scams are doing the rounds this year. Action Fraud often shares information about what to watch out for on their Twitter feed; check it regularly.
- Spread the word: If the worst should happen, tell the world. Report your experience to Action Fraud so that others can be warned of the scam method and may themselves be able to avoid losing money.
- Stick to secure internet: It is much easier for hackers to intercept your transactions when they are made across public WiFi, so make your purchases on a secure network you trust, such as at home or at work.
- Update your anti-virus: Make sure all your devices, including your smartphone, have the latest anti-virus software updated before you spend a single penny. This will ensure you are better equipped to withstand any malicious attacks.
Black Friday is an opportunity for great deals and super savings, and it is possible to shop securely this season. You can avoid becoming another alarming statistic in 2018 by taking the risks seriously and being prepared. Make the necessary checks and changes to keep yourself secure, and proceed with constant vigilance to ensure November is a month of bargains, not burnt fingers.