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Black Friday Alert: While consumers hunt for deals, fraudsters hunt for openings

Shoppers are being warned to watch out for scams and rip-off deals ahead of the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events

According to a report by customer engagement platform Emarsys, one in five UK consumers is anticipated to raise their spending from 2021 levels, with one in 10 utilising the occasion to do the majority of their Christmas buying.

This week is Black Friday, and Cyber Monday will be a few days later. Consumers in the UK spent £9.42 billion during the course of the big sales weekend the previous year.

Data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has revealed that people lost £15.3 million during the festive period last year – with the average loss being £1,000.

Examples of scams include one shopper losing more than £150 trying to purchase a mobile phone via social media and another being duped out of £7,000 while attempting to buy a campervan online.

Now the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – which is part of GCHQ – has launched a national Cyber Aware campaign providing shoppers with advice ahead of Black Friday and the Christmas period.

The average UK consumer is anticipated to spend £283 this weekend, up from £226 in 2021, according the research. There is an understanding that Black Friday presents a chance to save significantly, even if no specific purchase is planned.

However, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute warned that thieves will also be busy throughout the holiday weekend (CTSI).

The organisation is advising consumers to be on the lookout for scammers during the sales events and to exercise cautious because a deal might not always be what it seems.

CTSI lead officer Katherine Hart said: “It seems that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events get bigger every year. However, we all must remain vigilant and practise shopping safety.

“Sometimes sellers raise their prices before a sales period to make it look like a great deal is on offer during the sale. Fortunately, there are websites, such as Camel Camel Camel, which tracks the price history of products on Amazon so you can check if you’re getting a good deal.

“Most seriously, the prospect of scams rears its ugly head, and the Covid-19 pandemic saw an array of scams target the public while misusing shopping brands such as Amazon, along with delivery companies like Royal Mail and DPD, to cloak their intent.”

She warned people not to get sucked into flash sales in which you are pressurised to buy.

“Be careful of hidden add-ons such as insurance or inflated delivery costs,” she said, “as they can pile up and what looked like a good deal might be more expensive than you initially thought.”

Hart said the public should also be aware that some scammers clone legitimate websites in attempts to steal banking details, while other websites may sell counterfeit or unsafe goods.

She said: “Black Friday is a big day on the calendar for criminals as well as for shoppers and the sales are also an opportunity for businesses to get rid of unwanted or outdated stock that is dressed up as a bargain.”

Hart advised contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline if concerned about a business, product or website. If you believe you have uncovered a scam, contact the police.

“Trading Standards services are working to keep consumer confidence high through effective protection, and the co-operation of the public maximises that protection,” she said. “We must warn others and report every instance of bad business practices and scams so that enforcement authorities get a complete picture of the scale of this problem.”

She added: “Above all, take advantage of the deals, but be alert and don’t let websites pressure you into purchasing until you’ve done all the due diligence about the platform, the product, and the deal itself.”

For consumer advice, call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. To report scams, contact Police Scotland

How to Avoid Scams on Black Friday

Let’s be clear: terrible offers with prices that don’t correspond to record lows are not the same as frauds. Scams are true fraudulent offers that are disseminated through dangerous websites, social media, text messaging, and email when we talk about them.

Making a note of the websites you want to visit and avoiding all links you receive via the methods mentioned above are two ways to prevent these. Additionally, paying close attention to the URL, customer reviews, and images can usually help you identify a fake website. You might be dealing with a fake if these have five-star ratings for all the items but misspellings or poor quality photos.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute has previously issued warnings about scams in which con artists pretended to be major corporations like Amazon and delivery firms like Royal Mail and DPD. Similar scams may “raise their ugly head” during the sales extravaganza, it cautions.

In fact, it appears that the period before Black Friday is the busiest for con artists. According to a new research from Barclays Bank, nearly half (47%) of Brits have been the target of an email or text scam in the last few months, and 75% of them have noticed an increase in suspicious or scam-related behaviour in the past month.

You can also use a number of websites that provide a service, a service that detects if a website is a scam, below are links to such reputable websites.

Is Black Friday worth it?

The jury is out on whether Black Friday truly is the best retail sales day. During the last Black Friday sales, Money Saving Expert found that retailers did indeed provide the biggest discounts on 50 of the most popular items compared to pre-Christmas sales. For example, Apple’s iPad Pro tablets were up to £150 less during Black Friday and a Nintendo Switch Lite bundle with Animal Crossing was £70 less.

However, Which? previously revealed that 99.5% per cent of Black Friday items were available for the same price or cheaper at other times of the year.

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