The Black Friday sale tradition is gaining momentum in South Africa, with leading retailers promising significant discounts from Friday, 24 November, through to Cyber Monday on 27 November.

For many consumers, the discounts will prove too tempting for caution as they happily part with their personal information and hand over their credit cards to snap up the deals on offer, says Ideco Biometrics CEO Marius Coetzee.

“Fraud syndicates are sophisticated and very well organised, with individuals and businesses losing billions of rands to fraudsters every year. 

The moment a consumer drops his or her guard, they risk having their personal and banking information duplicated or shared and misused to carry out fraudulent transactions or deplete the victim’s bank account,” Coetzee warns.

The key to safe shopping this Black Friday is to stay vigilant and watch your credit card, he says.

Online shopping can be safer than bricks and mortar shops

“It might surprise some shoppers to discover that online shopping can be safer than using your credit card at a restaurant or retail outlet.  

When you hand over your physical credit card, it is very easy for fraudsters to ‘skim’ the card – presenting it to a card reader at the bottom of the point of sale device. 

This information can be shared across a syndicate within minutes, and by the time the victim becomes aware of the problem, their account could have been drained,” he says.

Coetzee recommends keeping an eye on your card throughout the transaction. “Giving your card to someone who walks away with it to a point of sale terminal is asking for problems.  

Many reputable retailers now allow customers to conclude their own transactions by entering the card into the point of sale device. This is typically the safest option, allowing the consumer to stay in control of their own card and personal information.”

Guard your identity

While reputable online retailers go to great lengths to ensure a secure environment for transactions, there are some potential risks in buying online or over the ‘phone, mostly because of consumers’ willingness to share personal information with strangers.

“Your identity – your personal information – is the key to accessing your home and your bank account, so you have to be cautious about who you share it with,” says Coetzee.  One way to be sure you’re sharing your information with a trusted online retailer is to initiate the engagement and the purchase, he says.

“If you initiate the process by going to a reputable online retailer’s website or calling a company’s contact centre, you know who you’re engaging with. 

Whereas if you click on a link you’ve been sent via email to start shopping, or you share personal information with someone who calls you on the ‘phone, you have no way of knowing for sure who you are giving your information to.”

“It’s safest not to answer questions from people pushing a sales effort to you – rather ask them to confirm the information they have about you. If they don’t have your details, be careful of confirming your personal identity information,” he says.

“It’s commonly accepted that when you drop your guard is when fraudsters will strike. So on Black Friday, when everyone is distracted in the rush to grab the best deal, they need to exercise caution and guard their information,” he says.