Black Friday will very soon be with us. Over the next month, everyone will be scrabbling for Christmas presents. And we’re perfect targets for scammers.
Don’t worry: several methods to protect yourself exist: simple but effective tips to keep in mind whenever you’re browsing the Internet for bargains, but especially in the mad rush to buy your loved ones the best gifts for 25th December.
Pay By Credit Card
Credit cards are, without a doubt, the safest way to purchase items online – and yes, more secure than debit cards.
Credit card companies are jointly liable with the trader if there is a problem with the product, so you’ve got an added safety net if the item is damaged or doesn’t turn up. In the UK, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, companies like Visa and Mastercard – even American Express – have to give you free protection when you spend between £100 and £30,000.
Okay, so what if you spend less than that? Thankfully, that’s where chargeback comes in. It’s not a legal requirement: instead, it’s a persuasive way of getting you to use said company. You can typically apply to your credit card company if you’re within 120 days of receiving your order – or of initially placing it if the items don’t turn up.
In the USA, potential liability for unauthorised use of your credit card is limited to $50. This may seem a lot, but it’s nothing compared to how much fraud can cost you. And if you’re unfortunate to be a victim of online credit card fraud, here are some tips to remember.
If in doubt, check with your credit card company’s terms and conditions.
What’s more, if you link a credit card through your PayPal account, the latter has a Buyer Protection programme which reimburses you the price of the item plus postage and packaging fees if a product either doesn’t turn up or isn’t as described. Yes, exceptions exist, but I doubt you’ll be indulging in real estate on Black Friday, ready for Christmas! (Here are a few ways to keep your PayPal secure.)
Don’t Click Links In Emails
This is always tempting because it’s quick and easy. You get a newsletter in your inbox promising some amazing Black Friday offers. All you have to do is click the link, add it to your cart, pay, and away you go!
But this leaves you open to scammers who create fake emails claiming to be from big names like Amazon. Spotting a fake email isn’t that hard, but can take a bit of time. Check through the whole thing and look for glaring errors, notably spelling or grammatical mistakes; look at the images and logo in particular, looking for unusual graphical artifacts.
Rather than click the email links, junk them and find the site yourself and search for the products you’re interested in. Amazon lists many of its Black Friday deals on its homepage in advance so you can browse through and find exactly the same bargain advertised in your email. Or not, as the case may be!
Look For Signs of Encryption
It doesn’t always appear when autosuggestion kicks in, but if you’re shopping online, make sure you look out for an often-overlooked sign of security. Take a look at that bit at the start of a URL, before the ‘www.’: ‘http://’ is standard, an acronym of Hypertext Transfer Protocol which is the basis of data communication on the Internet. However, ‘https://’ adds the TLS/SSL protocol (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer), authentication based on cryptography which helps your browser identify the site.
That additional ‘s’ merely stands for ‘secure’!
If the site is trusted, a padlock will appear in the address bar of most browsers. And here’s a handy way of making sure HTTPS is on as default.
Use Sites You Trust
Again, this is a simple one, but we can sometimes forget that sites might not be 100% trustworthy if they’re offering something unique and/or limited.
You’ve got companies you always rely on, so it’d be churlish not to once again in the run-up to Christmas.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use smaller names, but shop around a bit: an item may be exclusive to a particular business, but they still might sell stock through eBay or Etsy, and they may be listed as a third-party seller on Amazon.
It’s easy to become paranoid about this. Most sites are honest and only want to give you a good service. Nonetheless, sometimes even the big names can be hacked. Just remember to check for signs of encryption and pay using a credit card and/or PayPal.
Keep Records of Your Transactions
Don’t just rely on a list of transactions filed under ‘My Account.’ Keep a physical record of invoices or order confirmations. If a dispute does arise, you’ve got all the details you’ll need – and it’s reassuring when you open up your bank statement in January!
Some services use a different trading name from the one that might crop up when they debit your account: if you can find this out and it’s not obvious, note down that additional name on the corresponding paperwork. When using PayPal, for instance, you’ll be told the client that will be credited on your statement. That’ll help avoid a headache in the future.
BONUS TIP: Keep A Cool Head!
Black friday: People trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have
— Proud 2 Be A Problem (@LosBeOnIt) November 22, 2014
The bottom line is, don’t panic. It’s bizarre, but blood seems to pump harder through our arteries when we spot a bargain, especially if there’s a limited quantity, or a countdown like on eBay. Amazon does this too, but at least you know it’s a site you trust.
Then there’s that old saying which still comes in handy, whether you’re shopping online or in store: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas…
Yep, it’s stress and hassle and worry and a considerable amount of money disappearing from your account – where the heck does all that actually go?! – but it’s worth it in the end, isn’t it?
Do you take advantage of the deals on Black Friday? Or have you already done your Christmas shopping? Maybe you’ve got your eye on a nice new TV and are hoping to see big savings come the end of the week. Or maybe you’ve got a much-loved site you always use in preparation for the festivities. Let us know below!