Black Friday Scams to Watch For

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Last year, Black Friday shoppers broke records with over $9 billion spent in one day—and that’s just what was spent online. Even though holiday shopping may be slowing down this year, consumers are still spending—with Adobe Analytics reporting $95 billion already spent since October 1.

But where there’s online shopping, there’s also scams. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are prime opportunities for scammers to strike. To make sure your hard-earned money doesn’t end up in a Scrooge’s hands, we’ve been on the lookout for Black Friday scams. Here are scams to watch out for and tips to spot them before you click BUY.

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A multiracial woman is sitting on a couch, while typing on her laptop on the coffee table, holding a credit card in her hand as she completes her online purchase

Image: Vladimir Vladimirov. iStock

Watch out for these Black Friday scams

Fake delivery emails and texts

These pop up with links for phony tracking numbers or urgent messages about returning your package to the seller because they haven’t been able to reach you to deliver. Don’t click these links. Instead, use tracking apps from the major carriers, Amazon, or an app like Shop that lets you track all your online purchases in one place.

Fake verification codes

This is a scam where the crooks try to get around two-factor verification to access your financial and personal information. These messages may look like they’re from your bank or an online retailer you’ve recently shopped with. It might even be presented as a way to protect you from scams and verify your purchase.

Fake order confirmations

Scammers know that it can be hard to keep track of all those online orders for the holidays. Watch out for counterfeit order confirmations sent via email or text. These messages often include phishing or malware links that identity thieves use to steal your information. Don’t click on any message that doesn’t come directly from the seller. Go to the official site to check on orders instead of clicking on a link in a text or email.

Bait and switch deals

Deals that seem too good to be true or rely on scarcity to drive urgency (e.g., “only five left!”) are often used by fake retail sites to cash in on holiday gifting desperation and capture your information. Not only do you risk not getting the item you purchased, but counterfeit sites may also use your payment information to continue to charge the card or account you used for the purchase.

What you can do to avoid Black Friday scams

1. Make sure the seller is legit. Use our guide to help you verify the legitimacy of unfamiliar online retailers. The top signs to look for include:

  • A secure URL
  • Customer reviews
  • Public contact information with an actual address.
  • A transparent return policy

2. Make purchases with a credit card. Credit cards add a layer of protection between your actual money and the scammers. Many credit cards come with fraud protection that will help cancel unauthorized payments and recover any funds taken by fraud. See if your credit card company provides a virtual number that you can use. These numbers are often temporary, so a criminal can’t reuse them, and they can make it easier to track down where fraudulent charges are coming from.

3. Take your time. That’s right—it’s not life or death here. Retailers know how to tap into our frantic holiday panic, and so do scammers. But you don’t have to buy now. You can wait—good deals tend to pop up over the course of the holiday season and beyond. Sometimes, the best deal isn’t even on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. So If you’re feeling pressure to buy, buy, buy—don’t. Step away, take a break, and check back tomorrow.

4. Be skeptical of social media advertisements and “stores.” More people are buying through social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, but this is the perfect environment for scammers. They try to reel in users by advertising high-demand items for ridiculous deals. Before you click on one of these too-good-to-be-true ads, do some research. Verify that the store is legit before buying.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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