Britons could lose over half a million pounds to scams this Black Friday

Black Friday 2015 is set to be the biggest single online shopping day in UK history, but British shoppers are being warned to be on their guard for an increased risk of online fraud on the day.

With a predicted first ever online spend of £1.07bn in one day alone in the UK on 27th November, Black Friday is an opportunity for consumers to get major discounts in the run up to Christmas, though the increased online activity also provides opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of those caught up in the spending frenzy of good deals.

From the overall spend prediction of more than £1bn in one day, research from Voucherbox.co.uk reveals that up to £614,259.26 could be scammed from eager Brits shopping online.

Research has demonstrated an incident rate of around 0.0574% of scams on the total £21.6bn spent over the Christmas shopping season in 2014, amounting to £12.4 million. Applying this rate to the predicted £1.07bn figure for Black Friday would see scams reach in excess of half a million pounds.

The £12.4 million conned out of Britons over the Christmas 2014 period was a 31% rise from 2013 when UK consumers were duped out of £9.5 million over the same time frame.

A specific operation used by professional scammers around holidays such as Black Friday and Boxing Day is the creation of fake retailer websites using replicated brand logos, offering ‘must-have’ tech items such as smartphones and video game consoles at “unbelievable” prices. Fraudsters monitor the most sought after goods and entice consumers to pay for products which will never arrive.

Other types of online fraud include the creation of fake listings on genuine sites, the implementation of fake or insecure payment systems, email and SMS scams related to fake retail offers, enticement to transfer money online for purchases and the theft of personal banking details through official retail sites specifically targeting busy shopping days.

Originating from the US, Black Friday has an increasing relevance to UK retailers and consumers, with huge temporary discounts offered at the start of the Christmas period. Data from Google UK trends saw a 300% increase in searches for the term Black Friday from 2013 and 2014.

Global digital commerce consultancy Salmon have said that 30% of Brits, almost four times as many as the 8% in 2014, are planning to shop online this Black Friday, making it the biggest Black Friday in the UK to date.

Shane Forster, UK Country Manager at Voucherbox.co.uk said, “Online security is a huge topic at the moment, and with the rise of scams that are focusing on big shopping days such as Black Friday, bargain hunters need to be switched on to deals that look too good to be true when they are shopping online. If not, they are at risk of losing money, rather than saving money.”

“On Black Friday this year more online shopping than ever is expected and less experienced internet users are often targeted by fraudsters. We advise shoppers to always double check a website if they have not used it before to ensure that it is a valid site. If they are in doubt, consumers should avoid purchasing from the site at all costs.”

Online security consultant Stuart Spice of Spice New Media commented: “Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are using very genuine looking websites to entice shoppers. These websites will be online for barely a day or two, leaving victims high and dry. Even certain sponsored advertising links on popular search engines should be treated with caution as fraudsters commonly use this technique to quickly get to the top of the search results list. Because these websites are so new, it’s likely that anti-virus software will not be aware of them, leaving shoppers further exposed.”

Online safety tips for Black Friday shopping are as follows:
•    Purchase on credit cards not debit cards
•    Look out for spelling mistakes or poor images which may indicate a hastily created website
•    Check that the URL is legitimately from the recognized retailer’s website, make sure it is www.ebay.co.uk and not www.ebay1.co.uk, for example
•    Use payment verifications systems such as Verified by Visa
•    Choose passwords that are secure and change them often
•    Beware of clicking links in emails that could lead to a scam site
•    Avoid money transfers to unknown people, instead use online secure payment systems such as PayPal
•    Make sure there is a firewall installed on your computer and that it is kept up to date
•    Be aware of shared Wi-Fi zones that may not be secure
•    Ensure the payment page starts with HTTPS not HTTP, as this indicates a secure page
•    If you have been scammed, report the crime here

Feel like saving some dosh this month? Check out our Amazon vouchers to save you money on your online shop.