Black Friday’s worst online scams and how you can avoid them

As more consumers move over to online shopping, the number of online scams has increased, with cybercriminals taking advantage of the e-commerce boom. Picture: Pixabay

As more consumers move over to online shopping, the number of online scams has increased, with cybercriminals taking advantage of the e-commerce boom. Picture: Pixabay

Published Nov 16, 2022


This year, more South African consumers will swop busy shopping centre queues for the checkout button on e-commerce sites on Black Friday, according to Carey van Vlaanderen, Chief Executive Officer at ESET Southern Africa.

“That’s why staying vigilant, and knowing how to spot dodgy deals and scams, has never been more important,” van Vlaanderen said.

Dan Thornton, CEO, GoldPhosh, said: “We have to be on the lookout for dodgy deals and be smart when it comes to prices that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, more online shopping activity means more opportunities for cybercrimes to take place.”

Here are four online scams that cybercriminals may use to target consumers.

Phishing emails

Phishing emails are when criminals send fake order confirmation emails that claim that a customer’s order has been confirmed but won’t mention the content of the purchase. Instead, people are urged to click on a malicious link to find out what the contents of the purchase are.

Another phishing scam is when criminals send an email that says, ‘there is a problem with your order’. These emails mimic messages from courier companies that will direct customers to a link asking them to pay for a delivery fee shortfall or enter personal information.

WhatsApp voucher scams and competitions

People may share with their WhatsApp contacts fake shopping vouchers and bogus competitions that ask people to click on a suspicious link to direct them to the competition or voucher.

“Messages with the promise of free shopping vouchers or incredible competitions with the chance to win big-ticket items look convincing and direct victims to click on a URL that looks like a legitimate retailer,” van Vlaanderen said.

These scams are good at convincing people to share their personal information.

Social media scams

On social media, fraudsters will take advantage of the large number of online shoppers and blend in with the great bargains popping up on newsfeeds.

People should exercise extreme caution around ads that offer deals as well as massive discounts on designer items and luxury goods.

Van Vlaanderen said: “Always check the seller’s website and their reviews before you purchase, and stay clear if you land on a site with an unusual domain.”

Tickets to nowhere

Ticket scams that are run by criminals will offer fake tickets to sought-after sporting matches and concerts that are already sold out.

Fraudsters will fool fans by using phoney pictures of tickets or publishing a fake story about why people cannot attend to sound more legitimate.

After the tickets have been purchased, and the cash has been sent, the scammers will disappear, leaving behind an untraceable online identity.

Five ways you can be safe when shopping online on Black Friday:

1. Make sure your security is up to date by installing cybersecurity solutions such as anti-virus, firewalls and internet protection on any of your devices.

It's important that you protect your mobile phone because you use your device to

– connect to wi-fi,

– open banking apps

– make online payments.

2. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Thornton said: “Of course, Black Friday is all about discounts you can't get at any time of the year, but don't let that cloud your common sense.”

“If you're unsure about a link or a voucher, or a price just seems too low, head over to the retailer's site directly – if the deal is legitimate, it will be there.”

3. Only do your Black Friday shopping on websites you have used before and trust.

“Always type out the correct website address in your browser rather than clicking on a link,” van Vlaanderen said.

4. People need to stay away from public wi-fi because criminals often intercept public wi-fi by creating a fake hotspot in the same area as a real hotspot.

5. When shopping online, people must only use secure payment services and never share their OTP or passwords with anyone.

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