First of all, the staff at Olive Branch I.T. would like to wish you and your family a very “happy” Thanksgiving! We know we have an abundance of things we are grateful for, and a thriving company with dedicated customers and a staff that we consider “family” are just a few of the items on our list! With that said, as we would warn our family, we want to extend a warning to you all on this eve of Black Friday as temptations of online sales, specials, and promotions flood your email and your computer. Promises of deals, prizes, and “unbelievable” steals pop across your screen, and sometimes you can get a little lost in the legitimacy of the source, because fraudulent websites are extremely talented at mimicking secure sites, with only a slight discrepancy one might not easily notice.
With that said, when you get your email broadcasting these specials, look at the source. If you know Amazon’s actual website is www.Amazon.com, then an email that comes from amazon.net is not going to be what you think it it. In addition, emails from companies that have random letters capitalized, or words spelled incorrectly, are not legitimate emails and have been sent by scammers. Most of the time they either want you to click on a link, or enter your personal information for a variety of reasons; computer hacking, identity theft, data breaches, and so much more!
What else should you be aware of? Your location. If you are using a public domain, or free wifi, than be very leery of entering your credit card information. If you cannot visit the location personally, or sign on from your private computer, try to think of other options you can do beforehand, such as purchase a gift card from that site and have it emailed to you, so that if a “pop-up” sale occurs, and you are out and about, rather than entering your personal information, you can simply enter the info off the gift card.
As recommended by USA Today last year, the following are Black Friday scams they suggest avoiding:
1. Fake coupons
What could be better for a bargain shopper than finding a coupon to use on an already-discounted Black Friday deal? And there are sure to be a lot of coupons floating around online this season — but not all of them will be real.
Norton, the anti-virus software, warns holiday shoppers to beware of coupons that are really not coupons at all. Instead, these fake savings opportunities are actually a cybercriminal's way of luring you to a website that may ask you to input your credit card information.
Be careful not to click on any suspicious-looking coupons from social media sites or download what could be phishing schemes disguised as coupons from non-reputable websites.
If you're not sure whether a coupon is legitimate, check official retail store websites or read Black Friday ads for genuine coupons and deal information.
2. Phony e-mails
Sometimes you don't have to stumble across scams on the Internet — they might be delivered straight to you.
Spam e-mails (and even text messages) may try to lure you to click on compromising links. Because of their widespread appeal, Apple products tend to be particularly common bait for e-mail scams.
Despite these cyber ploys, you'll receive many legitimate e-mails in the days and weeks leading up to Black Friday, too. In fact, signing up for e-mail lists from retailers such as Target or Best Buy is an excellent way to receive Black Friday sales news as soon as they're released.
So how can you ensure that the messages in your inbox are the real thing? A few useful holiday shopping tips from the FBI:
Check the sender's e-mail address. If you don't recognize the sender, or didn't sign up to receive notifications from the address, don't respond to it or click on any links within the message. Be wary of what you save to your computer. Don't download any attachments from unsolicited e-mails, as they may contain viruses. If you're not completely sure that an e-mail is legitimate, contact the store, bank or organization the message is purported to be from. Instead of using any links or contact information contained within the e-mail, go to the retailer's official website as these phone numbers or e-mail contacts will be more reliable. Use common sense. If a deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
3. Bogus products
If you're planning to purchase a product online, be sure that the product you want is actually the product you'll get. This Black Friday — and throughout the holiday shopping season — you may run across websites that promise great deals but are actually peddling phony goods.
These sites promise to deliver customers high-quality items for huge discounts, but fall for the scheme and you'll likely end up with a cheap knockoff . Especially vulnerable to this tactic are shoppers in the market for luxury goods, which counterfeit dealers may advertise online for enticingly low prices.
When in doubt, research the merchant and try running the name of the website through the Better Business Bureau's business search. Also note that counterfeit products may be advertised in bogus online classified ads, too.
4. Data breaches
This one isn't necessarily a scam per se, but it's definitely something to keep in mind before you start swiping plastic this Black Friday: data breaches.
In 2013, retail giant Target suffered a massive Black Friday data breach. Upwards of 70 million shoppers may have had their names, card numbers, expiration dates and CVV three-digit security codes compromised or stolen. Other major retailers — such as Home Depot and Neiman Marcus — have also fallen victim to data breaches recently.
In the event that criminals attempt to swipe more customer data this Black Friday, try to protect yourself when you hit the stores. If you have the option to pay with either a credit card or a debit card, opt for the credit, as it will be easier to dispute charges if your information falls into the wrong hands.
While it may not always be feasible, paying with cash is the best way to avoid having any information stolen.
And remember, be careful out there!