7 Ways To Protect Yourself And Not Get Scammed On Black Friday
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Black Friday will very soon be with us. After that, the deals continue for Cyber Monday. Over the next month or so, everyone will be scrabbling for Christmas presents. Amid that panic, we’re perfect targets for scammers.

Don’t worry: you can follow a few basic methods to protect yourself. These are 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.

1. Pay By Credit Card

Credit cards are, without a doubt, the safest way to purchase items online — and yes, they’re more secure than debit cards.

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Image Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr.

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.

Thankfully, you can rely on “chargeback” Chargebacks for Credit Cards and PayPal: What You Need to Know Chargebacks for Credit Cards and PayPal: What You Need to Know Getting a chargeback on your credit card or PayPal account can get your money back after a bad transaction -- but do you know how to do it? Or what the requirements are? Here's everything... Read More . 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 arrive. It’s not a legal requirement: instead, it’s a persuasive way of getting you to use said company.

(If products don’t arrive, a retailer has to offer you a refund or replacement by law.)

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 What To Do If You’re A Victim Of Online Credit Card Fraud What To Do If You’re A Victim Of Online Credit Card Fraud Read More .

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. This 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 How To Keep Your Paypal Account Safe From Hackers How To Keep Your Paypal Account Safe From Hackers Read More .)

2. 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 typically hard 5 Examples To Help You Spot A Fraud Or Fake Email 5 Examples To Help You Spot A Fraud Or Fake Email The shift from spam to phishing attacks is noticeable, and is on the rise. If there's a single mantra to keep in mind, it's this -- the number one defense against phishing is awareness. Read More , but can take a bit of time. And some are surprisingly realistic!

Check through the whole thing and look for glaring errors, notably spelling or grammatical mistakes; look at the images and logo in particular, noting any unusual graphical artifacts. If it doesn’t look sharp, it’s probably fake.

Rather than click the email links, junk them and find the site yourself. Just open up another window 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 advertized in your email. Or not, as the case may be!

3. In Fact, Don’t Trust Links — Period

More and more people are learning that they can’t trust emails. It’s probably because we’re so accustomed to giving out this detail when signing up to things. We expect spam.

However, you can’t trust SMS either. You might get a text message telling you a parcel can’t be delivered.

To reschedule, click on a link. Don’t.

Want to request a refund? Click on the link. Don’t.

To enter a competition to win gift cards, click on a link. You can probably guess the pattern here…

By 2019, it’s estimated that 2.5 billion people will have smartphones. Clicking on a link in SMS means the user is redirected online and cybercriminals can get hold of your private details.

Many are caught out by WhatsApp messages. The app boasts end-to-end encryption Why WhatsApp's End-to-End Encryption Is a Big Deal Why WhatsApp's End-to-End Encryption Is a Big Deal WhatsApp recently announced that they would be enabling end-to-end encryption in their service. But what does this mean for you? Here's what you need to know about WhatsApp encryption. Read More so users might incorrectly think this means spam can’t get into the system. Similarly, a fraudulent message might appear to come from trusted contacts — but your friend’s device could be compromised. Pick the contents of the text apart: does your contact really talk like that? Are they likely to send you a link to a supermarket giveaway?

Even if you do think it’s genuine, do your research. Type “Walmart gift card scam” into Google and endless results will pop up.

The same goes for social media 3 Facebook Scams You Need to Watch Out for This Christmas 3 Facebook Scams You Need to Watch Out for This Christmas If you're not already, you should be concerned about how cybercriminals are using Facebook in order to scam you, especially during the Christmas period. These three scams show just how clever they can be. Read More . Is the promotion through a verified account? Even then, Twitter can be tricked.

No matter what, do not click on that link. Go to the source, i.e. the website it’s supposedly from. Competitions and surveys will be listed.

4. 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.

You should be using a secure browser What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? What Is the Most Secure Mainstream Browser? The battle for the best desktop browser will never be settled. But which is the most secure? All boast having superior protection -- but in 2017, which is the browser of choice for the security-... Read More , preferably one which displays warnings if you visit an unsafe site. Most will do this, so don’t stress too much about it unless you’re using Internet Explorer. Switch to Edge or Chrome instead.

Next, whenever you visit a page requiring personal details, check out the URL, just 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 How Web Browsing Is Becoming Even More Secure How Web Browsing Is Becoming Even More Secure We have SSL certificates to thank for our security and privacy. But recent breaches and flaws may have dented your trust in the cryptographic protocol. Fortunately, SSL is adapting, being upgraded - here's how. Read More (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer), authentication based on cryptography which helps your browser identify the site.

7 Ways To Protect Yourself And Not Get Scammed On Black Friday Amazon Secure Connection

Essentially, if you see that “S”, your connection is encrypted, making it private. Indeed, that additional letter stands for “secure” What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More !

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 What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More as default.

5. 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.

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Image Credit: PokemonaDeChroma via Flickr.

You have companies you always rely on throughout the rest of the year. It’d be churlish not to use them 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. They may even be listed as a third-party seller on Amazon.

You should beware auction sites too. Although you get some safeguards, you also risk receiving faked items. In the best case scenario, knock-off products mean you’re paying a lot for a brand name that’s simply not justified, as you’ve got an inferior copy instead. In the worst case, these can be dangerous Why You Should Never Buy Fake Apple Chargers Why You Should Never Buy Fake Apple Chargers No one likes paying full price for things. Unfortunately, when it comes to Apple chargers there really is no alternative to buying the real thing. Read More .

For example, fake electrical goods don’t come with safety guarantees, so can cause fires. Is it worth saving $10 if the recipient burns themself on your present?

Fake items are very hard to spot, so just do your best to stick to official sources. Ask yourself which markets you trust for which products. Craigslist is fine for books; less so for hair-straighteners.

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 The eBay Data Breach: What You Need To Know The eBay Data Breach: What You Need To Know Read More . Just remember to check for signs of encryption, and pay using a credit card and/or PayPal.

6. 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!

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Image Credit: Michael Caven via Flickr.

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’s trading name which will be credited on your statement. That’ll help avoid a headache in the future. Similarly, keep in mind that Amazon often comes up under “INT’L” followed by a lengthy number.

As long as you’ve kept a note of the payments coming out of your account in December, you can cross-reference them at a later date.

7. Look for Returns Policies

You have the right to take back items within 28 days of purchases, in most cases. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions, but that’s nonetheless a good rule of thumb to remember.

Around the festive period, many retailers expand their returns policies and offer gift receipts. However, not all do. Generally, the big reputable names do. Amazon extends its policy, so anything bought through them between November 1 and December 31 can be returned until midnight January 31.

It doesn’t include third parties, though. And this is the key thing about returns policies: you need to check individual sellers because specifics change.

You particularly need to be careful around auction sites. In some cases, retailers will include a shorter return period; others insist you pay for sending stuff back. And, most worryingly, some people don’t accept returns at all. So if you get an item that’s fake or damaged or simply unwanted… tough.

The key here is to know your rights — before purchasing!

BONUS TIP: Keep A Cool Head!

The bottom line is, don’t panic. It’s bizarre, but adrenaline pumps harder through our bodies when we spot a bargain. This is especially the case if there’s a limited quantity, or, as with eBay, a countdown.

Amazon uses both of these tactics in its flash deals. You’ll have a short time to check-out once you’ve added to your basket, and you might be told only “x” amount remains. In some cases, more stock arrives; in others, you’ve missed out. But at least you can try other retailers and third-parties (who might have better prices anyway!).

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 a stressful time Save Money and Time by Christmas Shopping Early Save Money and Time by Christmas Shopping Early Christmas shopping doesn't have to be a financially overwhelming experience! Follow these tips to get your shopping done early to save money and reduce stress. Read More . You’ll get hassled in stores as crowds squabble for the latest gear. You’ll be worried you won’t get it all done in time. And a considerable amount of money will disappear from your account — where the heck does all that actually go anyway?!

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!

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  1. Zhong
    November 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I'm not aware that credit card could provide protection, doesn't the customer reach this issue toward the buyer or website that handle such process?

    • Philip Bates
      November 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Yeah, go through the website/service you're using first off - but if your problem isn't dealt with properly there, your credit card company is there as a back-up. This is especially the case when it comes to fraudsters; credit cards give you some peace of mind as many are prepared for these sorts of eventualities.

  2. dragonmouth
    November 25, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Of course one can forego the convenience of getting scammed online and shop in person. I know, that's so last millenium and besides, the scammers also have to make living.

    • Philip Bates
      November 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      True... but you can still being scammed isn't exclusive to online either.