Black Friday Scams and How to Avoid Them

Published November 20, 2023

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For many, Black Friday marks the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season—and retailers are already scrambling to offer bargain-hunting shoppers enticing deals and discounts. That’s important to note because this year, consumer surveys show that two-thirds of shoppers are prioritizing good deals and promotions over quality and convenience this year.  

Unfortunately, amid the frenzy of discounts and promotions, cybercriminals are finding ever-unique ways to prey on unsuspecting shoppers. So, before you break out your credit card, educate yourself on some common holiday shopping scams and learn how to safeguard yourself against potential threats.

Spoofing Scams

Recently, there has been a surge of scams that target credit union members and bank customers, so be on guard for phone calls, emails, and texts that look like they are coming from your financial institution. Remember that we will NEVER ask for your card numbers, online banking credentials, or verification codes unless you initiate a call with us. If someone asks for your information or sends you a message about an issue with your account, do not respond or click on links. Instead, contact Maps directly at 503.588.0181. 


Phishing Scams

Phishing remains a top threat, especially during the holiday season. Scammers often send emails or messages disguised as legitimate retailers, enticing users to click on malicious links or provide personal information. To avoid falling victim, scrutinize the sender's email address, look for spelling errors, and avoid clicking on suspicious links. Always verify the legitimacy of the website by typing the URL directly into your browser.

Shipping and Delivery Scams

Be wary of text messages, emails, or phone calls that appear to come from UPS, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service, or another delivery service and claim a “delivery issue” that needs to be resolved. The majority of these messages are smishing scams designed to lure victims into sharing personal information or financial details. If you click on the links or download the suggested software or applications, you risk losing money or sensitive information.

Fake Websites

Counterfeit websites that mimic popular retailers are another way scammers attempt to deceive consumers. Before making a purchase, double-check the website's legitimacy by ensuring it has a secure connection (https://). If the website is unfamiliar to you, look for customer reviews and check the company’s social media presence. Examine the site for evidence of poor spelling or grammar. Above all, remember: If a deal seems too good to be true, it might be a red flag.

Bogus Apps

With the rise of mobile shopping, fraudulent apps have become a common threat. Stick to official app stores when downloading shopping apps, read reviews, and check permissions before installation. Legitimate retailers will not request unnecessary access to your device's data.

Deceptive Social Media Promotions

If you run across a Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok post offering a new iPhone, free vacation, or other such luxury item, keep scrolling. Scammers often use social media platforms to promote fake giveaways, contests, or exclusive deals. Be very wary of unsolicited messages or posts and verify the legitimacy of promotions by checking the retailer's official social media accounts. Legitimate businesses will have a verified badge, ensuring the authenticity of their pages.

Gift Card Scams

Did you find someone selling a $100 Amazon gift card for $50? Watch out! Scammers everywhere from eBay to Facebook Marketplace and other such platforms sell expired or empty gift cards to make a profit. Avoid purchasing gift cards second hand and—even when you purchase them from legit retailers—check to see if the activation code is scratched off or exposed. If it is, chances are the card has already been used.

How to boost your Black Friday cybersecurity


As you embark on your Black Friday shopping spree, it's crucial to remain vigilant and adopt a cautious approach. By staying informed about common scams and implementing these protective measures, you can ensure a safe and secure shopping experience. Remember, the best deal is one that doesn't compromise your personal information or financial security. Here are a few ways to protect yourself:

1. Protect Your Identity. Every Black Friday sees a surge in identity theft attempts. When shopping online, use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever available. It’s also a good idea to monitor your financial statements regularly for any unauthorized transactions and report suspicious activity promptly.  

2. Watch for Wi-Fi Risks. Public Wi-Fi networks can be breeding grounds for cyber threats. Avoid making sensitive transactions or accessing personal information when connected to public Wi-Fi. Instead, use a secure, password-protected network, or consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for an extra layer of protection.  

3. Set Up Antivirus Software and Install a Password Manager. Antivirus software is your best defense against cybercriminals (besides educating yourself, of course). Good antivirus software will scan your computer to remove malicious software and alert you when threats are present. Couple that with a password manager (like 1Password or LastPass) to help you create strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.  

4. Use Credit Cards Instead of Debit Cards. If possible, shop with a credit card so you have an extra layer of protection against fraud. If your credit card information is compromised and the thieves go on a spending spree, you typically won't be held responsible for fraudulent purchases. The same cannot be said for most debit cards. Plus, many credit cards now offer purchase protection which acts as insurance against items being stolen or damaged.  

5. Avoid Shopping on Social Media. Social media is a lot of fun—and you can find some great gift ideas, but exercise caution when shopping from social media sites. Scammers are known to invent fake profiles and invade marketplace listings.

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