If you're planning to spend big during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, here's how to make sure you don't get caught out by scammers and cyber criminals.
Unless you've been living under a rock with no access to a TV or the internet the past few weeks, you would have heard a whole lot about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The US shopping day after Thanksgiving has gone worldwide and 2015's Black Friday in the UK looks set to be the biggest yet.
The good thing about Black Friday is that you can actually find some really good deals. Unfortunately, there'll be plenty of people wanting to take advantage of your impending spending spree.
Whether that's through scam websites or dodgy emails, it's a day you'll need to keep your wits about you. Before you punch in those credit card details, here's our top tips to make sure you don't end up red faced on Black Friday or with a bigger black hole in your bank account than you anticipated.
Get some internet security software installed
It sounds like a really obvious thing to, but if you do a lot of shopping on your Windows laptop, MacBook, tablet or smartphone, this is one of the best ways to keep your financial information protected. Make sure you've got the latest version as well, to make sure you have the most up to date protection. If you need any help picking out some free antivirus software, click the link below for our group test.
Make sure the website you've accessed is the real deal
Again, it's another obvious one, but one that many can be fooled by. There's certain things that'll tell you almost immediately if you're dealing with a reputable retailer. Like making sure that the URL starts with 'htttps://' Also, look for the padlock icon in the top left hand corner of in the URL address bar. If you don't spot them, think twice about spending on that 50-inch 4K TV going for £99.99.
Pay with a credit card online
When it's time to complete the transaction, it's always a better idea to use a credit card as opposed to a debit card. That way, if you do have issues with an online purchase, this should make it a little easier to resolve the probem by dealing with your credit card company. Additionally, at the payment stage, make sure the website you're dealing with supports secure credit card verification. So Verified by Visa or MaterCard SecureCode depending on which card you're using for instance.
Don't forget about Apple Pay for in-store purchases
For those planning on hitting the high street for Black Friday, don't forget about mobile payment services like Apple Pay. Unlike a card, retailers do not see your details or store any of the data either. Therefore your data is not at risk. Make sure you have Find my iPhone set up though, because if anyone grabs your handset, you can remotely suspend the payment card information as well.
Related: A guide to Apple Pay
Don't shop on that free Wi-Fi hotspot
Another one for the high street buyer. You might want to quickly check on how good that deal in Argos really is and buy it somewhere else online. But don't have a mobile internet connection. Resist the urge to jump onto free Wi-Fi. This is one of the easiest ways for cyercriminals to take advantage of the unsecure connections to spy and ultimately compromise your precious data.
That amazing deal email is probably too good to be true
This is likely to be one of the most popular ways eager shoppers can get caught out. Spam has been around for years, but it's getting harder for some to tell the difference between what's genuine or fake. If you're unsure, don't open any of the links or email attachments. The sender is always a big giveaway as well. If it doesn't look right, open a web browser, find the official site the email is supposed to have come through and do some digging to see if the information and deals add up. The same applies to Instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype. If it pops up in your IM chat and it looks odd, it most probably is.
Use a web browser on your computer to shop online
There'll no doubt be plenty of people browsing Black Friday deals on their phones, but once you've decided to spend the money, you're better off jumping onto your computer to complete the transaction. Online retailers like Amazon for instance, offer its own form of security to tighten up the process of buying and is another simple and effective way to protect yourself.
Do your homework on the website
There'll be both big and small online retailers offering deals over the coming days, but if you're thinking about buying from a retailer for the first time, it pays off to do your research and find out a bit more before parting with your cash. Use a search engine to look up the company and gain a little more information about the experiences other customers have had with a site. You can also ask on social networks and you're sure to get a much better idea of who you are dealing with and whether you want to deal with them at all.