Shoppers reach for television sets as they compete to purchase retail items on Black Friday. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Shoppers reach for television sets as they compete to purchase retail items on Black Friday. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Don’t let Black Friday scams put a dark cloud over your finances – here are a few lessons to learn

By Vernon Pillay Time of article published Nov 17, 2021

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The excitement of Black Friday is upon us. The date to save this year is November 26. Traditionally being only one day of specials, this popular promotion has changed over the years, with retailers extending their offers for much longer periods.

A move towards online shopping has also brought a new dynamic to Black Friday with the trend showing a particularly sharp rise with the advent of Covid-19 last year. A recent survey by Game stores shows at least 50% of customers want to shop both instore and online.

Sbusiso Kumalo, Chief Marketing Officer for African Bank, warns that whether consumers are in store or online this Black Friday, vigilance with all financial transactions is key.

He explains that threats like phishing, vishing, ATM skimming and card swapping are just some of the techniques criminals use to access your financial and personal details. They have one goal – to steal your money or use your identify to commit fraudulent transactions.

“Black Friday is a perfect opportunity for criminals to target distracted shoppers in store and eager bargain hunters online,” Kumalo says. “This Black Friday, don’t let the special offers cloud your vigilance and be aware of the types of tricks criminals use.”

Kumalo adds ATMs are a favourite target for criminals because they are so conveniently situated for customers to use, any time of the day or night, so being vigilant when withdrawing cash is also key.

Some golden rules for Black Friday shopping

If you are shopping instore:

1. Always get your own card back after every purchase and ensure the credit card machine is swiped in front of you.

2. Never write down your pin or disclose it to anyone and use different pins for different cards.

3. Always keep an eye on the card slot to ensure that your card is not taken out, skimmed and replaced without your knowledge.

4. If you are carrying cash, be vigilant at all times and don’t get distracted in store looking at bargains. Scamsters are lurking in store looking for easy opportunities.

If you are shopping online:

1. Be aware of scam URLs – mobile users are often susceptible to this scam as they often do not check the full URL on their device. This is an easy way to trick people into thinking they are buying the real thing.

2. Subscribe to your bank's SMS notification services; this will inform you of any transactional activity on your account.

3. Watch out for emails promising bargains. Rather than click on the link in an email or SMS, go to the site itself. Hackers can even spoof websites, so make sure you’re shopping on the actual site.

4. If you receive a call from your bank, remember they will never ask for your OTP. Unsuspecting customers can be duped into thinking they are speaking to a credible source from their bank and disclose sensitive information, often under the pretense of a ‘security protocol’.

5. Always use a secure and trusted WiFi connection.

Kumalo also cautions against overspending this Black Friday – and at any other time.

“Stress is one of the leading triggers of overspending, as are social media envy, retail tactics, boredom and ease of access to online shopping and credit cards,” he says.

“If you are constantly overspending, debt and savings are likely to go out the window and you may even fall behind on monthly financial commitments, like rent or your car payment.”

5 ways to prevent overspending this Black Friday:

1. Create a budget.

2. Switch to cash only.

3. Recognise what is driving you to shop for non-essentials.

4. Set short-term goals to help you overcome overspending and save money instead.

5. Be vigilant about comparing prices. Some Black Friday specials are not that special.

“If you plan to shop until you drop on Black Friday, remember the high won’t last if you spend money you shouldn’t have. The financial hangover from reckless spending can last a long time.

“Keep the dark financial clouds at bay by seeing this Black Friday through in a responsible manner that enables you to keep your transactions secure and your spending within your means.”

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