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Black Friday & Cyber Monday Bring Bargains But Also Scams, ID Theft Threats

november 11, 2021 | fraud protection
woman shopping online for holidays

It’s that crazy time of year again when budgets fly out the window, and generosity toward loved ones reconnects us to friends and family. Just make sure you avoid dabbling in the dark workings of the hacker world. Researchers have already detected scams that offer hard-to-find toys, games and free gift cards. You can dodge tricks and those too-good-to-be-true offers with a bit of planning.

Cyber Monday and Black Friday motivate deal hunters, and some offerings deliver significant savings. For example, Macy’s has already revealed deals like 30% off The North Face goods and 65% off Martha Stewart Collection Cookware.

Expect numerous bargains to debut before Thanksgiving since many large retailers have decided to close on the holiday again. While discounts can be significant on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember this: hackers are not looking to grab a great deal on an iPad. Instead, they’re targeting your wallet.

Risks Surround You

Risks abound during the holidays. One trap involves using 'free' Wi-Fi provided by a local establishment. Could you tell if that’s a genuine Nordstrom network or a bogus one established by scammers to capture your personally identifiable information (PII)?

Fake network names are often selected to sound familiar and safe. Sometimes a typo in the address—for example, Nordstrum vs. Nordstrom—is all it takes to lure shoppers to a malicious network. You sure don’t want scammers watching you check online bank accounts or entering credit card data on one of these 'free' services.

Use a virtual private network (VPN) to block your online destinations. This encrypted service, included in all IDShield memberships, thwarts most hacking attempts and protects PII.

Retailers want a piece of the pie so badly that some stretch the truth. Take those “Lowest Price, Guaranteed!” claims. It’s naïve to believe every claim that pops up in stores or online. That’s just a nudge to make you buy, and the merchant could inflate the deal’s value to do so. If 1 in 30 buyers comes back to complain or demand a refund, the business still rakes in lots of cash.

The solution? Do that homework before you shop. Have a list of items you’d like to acquire and know current selling prices. That’s the only accurate way to guarantee you get legitimate deals.

Price matching could be suspended this holiday season, so don’t assume you can haul in savings this way.

Spot Fly-By-Night Vendors Online

If you missed out on Black Friday’s deals, Cyber Monday is just around the corner. You’ll discover hundreds of websites with Black Friday in their URLs, and many are based overseas even though Black Friday is primarily an American and British tradition.

If you find an irresistible deal, search the website for information about shipping and potential delays. Goods shipped from many areas outside the United States may not arrive on time due to pandemic restrictions.

If a site advertises, “All Orders Processed Within 24 Hours,” dissect that statement. That boast does not address shipping, and the company could outsource delivery to a third party without your knowledge after you make the payment.

Federal laws on mail orders and online shopping require you to get a notice if shipping takes over 30 days. However, that won’t always happen with shady websites.

If you discover an unfamiliar website packed with terrific deals, check the reviews in depth. Ensure they appear genuine and don’t create any red flags involving product quality, lost shipments or significant shipping delays.

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season rush you into purchases or deals you need more time to evaluate. Instead, calm down and study the situation before you reach for your credit card.

One site worth a visit is theblackfriday.com, which posts ads and flyers for big retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and more. Many Black Friday 2021 documents have been posted already, and price comparisons are a vital part of deal research.

Shield Yourself

No one welcomes the deluge of spam that can follow sharing your email address with a retailer. If a store asks for it, decline politely or ask if it is necessary to complete your transaction. As a rule, this data isn’t required. Stores don’t need email addresses, but they’ll use them for marketing later.  

Don’t ask for your receipt via email for the same reason. Instead, request a paper copy and photograph it with your phone immediately. You can start a photo file of receipts to track warranties and take advantage of extended warranties offered by many major credit card firms and won’t share any of your PII in the process.

If you want to share an email address, create one that is only for shopping, such as [email protected] Then if spam swamps your Inbox, you can delete it and make another one for future use.

Keep looking over your shoulder—literally and figuratively—this holiday season. The guy behind you at the sales register casually taking photos with a smartphone could easily capture your credit card info or PIN. If you volunteer your email address or zip code at the register, he could also capture that data.

At IDShield, we know there’s no foolproof way to guard all your data, and that’s doubly true this time of year. That’s just one reason why IDShield monitors member credit and financial data 24/7.

 

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. IDShield plans are available at individual or family rates. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors are accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.

Protect yourself against holiday shopping cyber threats!