Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, with retailers offering deep discounts both online and in stores. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of the hype around Black Friday deals by setting up fake shopping websites and circulating scam ads on social media. Read on to learn how to identify and avoid Black Friday shopping scams.
This Article Contains:
Overview of the Black Friday Shopping Scams
Scammers heavily promote fake shopping websites and deals in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, trying to lure victims in with promises of incredible bargains on popular products. They may create lookalike websites mimicking major retailers or use compromised social media accounts to run Black Friday ads.
Once on a scam website, customers will go through the motions of selecting products, adding them to a cart, and checking out. However, the transactions never go through. Victims either receive nothing at all, knock-off products, used or tampered goods, or completely wrong items.
On top of selling sham products, these fake sites also harvest users’ personal and financial information during checkout. Full names, home addresses, phone numbers, and credit card details entered on scam websites are collected and sold to cybercriminals.
These Black Friday scams end up costing victims in three main ways:
Financial loss – Money is taken through fraudulent credit card charges, but no products are ever shipped.
Identity theft – Personal information like names, addresses and credit card numbers are stolen and sold.
Receiving worthless or fraudulent items – Victims who do receive products get inferior knock-offs or used goods instead of what was ordered.
Be on high alert for Black Friday scams from late October through Cyber Monday. The safest way to avoid them is to only shop on the official websites of retailers you know and trust.
How the Black Friday Shopping Scams Work
Scammers go to great lengths to build intricate fake shopping websites and market them aggressively to unsuspecting shoppers. They rely heavily on the fear of missing out around Black Friday deals to drive traffic and conversions.
Here is an inside look at how these ecommerce scams operate:
1. Building Elaborate Fake Ecommerce Stores
Sophisticated templates are used to create fake storefronts mimicking top retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, and more. The sites feature logos, product images, descriptions, legal pages, and functionality copied from legitimate businesses.
SSL certificates, security badges, live chat bots, and other trust signals are implemented to boost credibility. Reviews, press mentions, and discounts are completely fabricated as well.
Behind the scenes, customer data harvesting and credit card payment processing is set up, although no actual transactions go through. The sites are hosted anonymously, often with domain details hidden.
2. Promoting Scam Sites Aggressively on Social Media
Scammers rely heavily on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms to promote the fake shopping websites.
They use slogans and graphics promising deals like “Black Friday Clearance Sale”, “90% OFF”, “Store Closing”, and “Cyber Monday 70% Off” to catch attention.
Video ads and posts show unbelievable prices on items like $39 electric bikes, $20 power tools, and $135 Air Jordans. Other deals tout shoes, clothing, jewelry, and electronics at 90% off.
Links drive social media users to the scam websites, where pressure tactics and urgency are used to convert visitors into victims.
3. Quickly Building New Sites to Avoid Detection
Scammers operate large networks of interconnected fake shopping websites for maximum impact. As sites get discovered and shut down, they rapidly create new domains and hosts.
The sites provide no customer service number, physical address, or company details. They are essentially ghost businesses designed only to pilfer data and money.
4. Defrauding Customers in Multiple Ways
There are a few common outcomes from falling for these fake ecommerce scams:
Nothing arrives – This happens most often, with no items shipped after taking payments.
Knock-offs and cheap substitutes – Some customers receive inferior quality replicas.
Used or damaged goods – In some cases, victims get clearly tampered or secondhand items.
Wrong items – Orders can arrive with completely different products, demonstrating no order accuracy.
Data theft – All sites harvest personal and payment details during checkout for identity theft and resale.
In summary, scammers leverage convincing website design, aggressive social media marketing, and manipulation of shopper psychology around Black Friday deals to perpetrate large-scale retail scams. Exercise extreme caution when shopping online sales.
Identifying Black Friday Scams on Facebook
Facebook is flooded with fraudulent ads and pages promoting Black Friday deals to lure victims to scam websites. Watch for these signs of Facebook shopping scams:
Ads from unknown brands – Scam ads will promote suspicious “blowout” Black Friday sales from retailers you’ve never heard of before. For example, ads touting “70% off Everything!” from a site called “Shoppers Megastore”.
Prices that seem unrealistic – Scam ads will push products like the latest iPhone for $200 or 4K TVs for $100. These prices are inordinately discounted and are red flags.
Sketchy URLs – The destination website URLs being promoted look strange or semi-readable. For example, a nonsensical URL like “hbfridaydeals.aj192hd2.net”.
No company details – The Facebook page for the brand lacks any information about who owns it, location, contact info, etc. Or details change frequently.
No interaction – Ask specific questions in comments on the Facebook posts or page. Scam pages won’t respond or will give vague replies.
Recent page creation – Research the Facebook page on social media analysis tools. Scam pages tend to be recently created, often in the last 1-2 months.
Do ample research before engaging with Black Friday promotions on Facebook to avoid ending up on convincing scam sites ready to steal your money.
Spotting Black Friday Scams on Instagram
Scammers leverage Instagram to promote fake Black Friday deals through targeted ads and posts:
No legitimate business info – Scam accounts have no address, phone, email, or factual details about the brand in the bio or posts.
Unbelievably low prices – Scams advertise prices like designer handbags for $50 or video game consoles for 75% off retail prices.
Non-existent brands – The brand name being promoted doesn’t show up in any web searches or registries aside from the scam Instagram account.
Reused or stolen images – Reverse image searches on product photos show they are stolen from other sites or multiple scam accounts use the same images.
Fake engagement – The account has very low real engagement and followers compared to the high number it’s following. Many followers are usually bots or other scammers.
Suspicious site – Clicking on the link in the account bio or posts goes to a sketchy looking site with spelling errors, missing pages, etc.
Sales urgency – Scam posts emphasize discounts expiring soon or products selling out to get victims to act fast without thinking first.
Scrutinize improbable deals on Instagram thoroughly. Vet the seller, prices, site quality, and engagement for any red flags before providing payment or order information.
Avoiding Black Friday Scams on TikTok
On TikTok, scammers create videos promoting Black Friday discounts to funnel victims to malicious sites:
Links in captions – Scam TikToks will include a sketchy URL in the caption urging people to shop the sales.
Unbelievable prices – Videos advertise prices like $200 laptops or $10 smartwatches that are clearly too good to be true.
No seller details – The TikTok account and site give no actual business name, address, or contact info.
Comments off – Scam accounts turn off comments on their promo videos to avoid anyone questioning the deals.
Stock content – Videos use stolen product images and fake reviews instead of original content.
Sales urgency – Captions emphasize limited-time deals or low stock to get viewers to buy quickly without researching first.
New accounts – Scam accounts are often recently created with few followers and posts aside from the scam content.
Scrutinize shoppable TikToks by researching sellers, inspecting sites, and verifying deals thoroughly before purchasing. If a deal seems unrealistic, it’s likely a scam.
What to Do If You Have Fallen Victim to a Black Friday Scam
If you suspect you’ve been scammed, take the following steps right away to limit the damage:
Step 1: Contact Your Bank or Credit Card Company
Immediately call the bank or financial institution that issued the credit or debit card used on the scam website. Report the fraudulent charges and have them reverse the transactions if possible. Your quick action can stop additional money from being deducted or stolen.
Check your account activity and statements closely over the next few weeks. Look out for any suspicious or unapproved withdrawals. Ongoing monitoring is key as scammers may repeatedly attempt charges.
Some card issuers allow customers to set up transaction alerts for real-time notifications. Use these to stay on top of account activity following a scam.
Step 2: Place Fraud Alerts on Your Credit Reports
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. This requires creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving any new credit applications.
Once an alert is set with one bureau, they are required to notify the other two to also place alerts on your behalf. Fraud alerts provide essential protection against identity theft risks.
You can also choose to directly freeze your credit reports for stronger security. This blocks access to the reports and prevents criminals from opening any new accounts.
Step 3: Reset Account Passwords
Scammers who obtain your personal data may attempt to break into your online accounts. As a preventative step, reset the passwords on your main email, retail, social media, and financial accounts.
Use strong, unique passwords for each account. Avoid dictionary words and personal information in predictable sequences. Enable two-factor authentication everywhere possible for enhanced security.
Update passwords on any compromised cards as well to cut off access. Check your saved payment options with online retailers and remove any fraudulent details.
Step 4: Watch for Suspicious Emails and Calls
Cybercriminals who acquire your personal information may use it to target you with phishing attempts and social engineering scams. Watch out for suspicious emails or phone calls claiming to be from businesses seeking to verify account details. Delete any questionable communications without opening attachments or clicking embedded links.
Update your email and social media privacy settings to limit who can contact you. Avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. Use caller ID and spam detection to block obvious scam contact attempts.
Step 5: File Reports to Aid Investigations
Submitting scam reports creates a paper trail that aids law enforcement investigations and consumer protection efforts. File reports with the following agencies:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Report fraud on the FTC website or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Your State Attorney General – Look up the AG office website and fraud reporting contacts for your state.
Local Police – Contact your local police department’s non-emergency number. Some may allow scam reporting online.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) – The BBB Scam Tracker allows you to report online shopping scams and risky websites.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Mail fraud and identity theft complaints can be filed on the USPIS website or by calling 1-877-876-2455.
Domain Registrar – Report counterfeit websites misusing trademarks to the registrar hosting them (GoDaddy, Namecheap etc).
Social Media Platforms – Report scam posts and accounts on the platform they appeared (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc).
The more complaints submitted against Black Friday scams, the quicker authorities can disrupt the illegal operations. Your reports also warn other consumers, potentially preventing more victims.
Frequently Asked Questions About Black Friday Scams
What are the most common Black Friday scams?
The most prevalent online shopping scams try to direct you to fake ecommerce websites impersonating major retailers. These sham sites steal payment information and ship nothing or low quality items. Scammers also use social media and email to promote fake deals.
How do the scam websites work?
Scammers build convincing storefronts mimicking trusted retailers down to the design, product listings, and discount promotions. But they never fulfill orders, instead collecting payment and personal data for theft.
What happens if I order from a scam website?
Most likely you’ll receive nothing after payment. In some cases victims get knockoffs, used goods, or completely incorrect items. Your information also gets stolen for identity theft and resale on the dark web.
How can I identify a scam website?
Watch for red flags like prices that seem unrealistic, recently registered domain names, no contact information, social media presence only around promotions, and generic templates. Reverse image search product photos for original sources.
Are the deals on social media scams?
Often yes. Scammers promote fake deals through social channels and ads pointing to their sham sites. Be very wary of online offers that seem too good to be true, especially from unknown accounts.
How do I avoid Black Friday scams?
Only shop official brand sites you independently search for and verify. Beware of unbelievable discounts. Check site registrations and look for contact pages. Read reviews mentioning “scam” or “fake”. Avoid new online stores pushing deals.
What should I do if I encounter a scam?
Immediately contact your bank to reverse any charges. Place fraud alerts on credit reports and change account passwords. Report the scam to the FTC, BBB, attorney general, social media sites, and domain registrar. Monitor your credit and accounts closely.
Can I get scammed money back?
Unfortunately it is very rare to recover any money sent to scammers. Prevention is critical, as bank transactions and wire transfers to fraudulent parties are nearly impossible to reverse.
How can I shop Black Friday safely online?
Stick to official brand sites. Use credit cards for better protections. Beware of ads promoting unrealistic discounts and prices. Ignore social media DM deal offers. Don’t enter info on unfamiliar sites. Watch for signs of spoofed URLs.
Following basic precautions goes a long way in helping you avoid the pitfalls of Black Friday scams. Report any suspicious activities to protect yourself and others.
The Bottom Line on Avoiding Black Friday Scams
The heavy hype and competition surrounding Black Friday deals brings out opportunistic scammers eager to cash in. Be vigilant in protecting your personal and financial information when shopping the deals. Follow these key tips:
Only shop on the official website of retailers you know and trust. Independently look up the correct URL – do not use links in emails or social media posts.
Beware of unbelievable bargains and unrealistic discounts that seem too good to be true. Limit purchases from unfamiliar sites.
Never enter payment or sensitive information on suspicious websites. Safest to use credit over debit cards as added protection.
Conduct online searches for “scam” complaints against less recognizable businesses before purchasing. Focus on established national retailers.
Install comprehensive security software on all devices and keep apps updated. Use multi-factor authentication wherever available.
Monitor financial account activity daily during the holiday season. Set up transaction alerts on credit/debit cards and bank accounts.
Know refund, return, and exchange policies. Understand warranty and consumer protections on large purchases.
Report any suspected scams immediately and place fraud alerts. Continually check credit reports over the next year.
Exercising caution, protecting data, and buying only from reputable sellers greatly reduces your chances of getting scammed. Following the tips outlined here will help you stay secure and maximize the deals without compromising your information or money this Black Friday shopping season.