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Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 6 Cyber Safety Tips


Published November 22, 2023 • 5 Min Read

Looking for deals and discounts this Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Before you shop, be sure to take note of these tips to help you keep your personal and financial information safe. After all, Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t just big days for shoppers — they’re big days for cyber criminals.

Black Friday is big business. And these days, Cyber Monday is even bigger. According to a survey by Leger, more than half (54 per cent) of Canadians browsed or purchased a Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion and among them, 84 per cent purchased from a Canadian store website.

With this volume of online shopping activity, hackers have significant opportunities to execute their cyber scams. After all, hackers go where the money is, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday can be a quick way to make a lot of cash. And, given that scammers tend to use time pressure to their advantage, the “limited time” quality of Black Friday deals set the stage for successful online deception.

If you plan to take advantage of deals and discounts this holiday shopping season, these tips can help you browse and buy safely.

1. Watch out for fake websites

A common tactic for fraudsters is to clone popular websites among Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers. Many fake websites will use a domain name close to the brand it’s trying to mimic but may contain additional letters or spelling mistakes. Look closely at the website URL before you buy — particularly if you clicked a link to get there.

Also, take a moment to carefully examine the website’s content to ensure you’re on a legitimate page. While some fake sites are obvious, others are harder to spot. Watch out for grammar mistakes, flashy ads, or poor design. During this busy shopping season, scammers take advantage of distracted and time-pressed consumers and have an easier time catching people who aren’t paying close attention to the sites they visit.

2. Check that you’re shopping on a secure site

Whenever you shop online, look for the padlock symbol beside the URL and check that the site begins with https://. The “s” indicates the site is encrypted and secured with an SSL certificate. To take things a step further, you can also check for a website privacy policy and use a safety check tool, such as Google Safe Browsing, to see if the website is legitimate and secure.

3. Beware of suspicious emails and social media scams

While phishing emails are a threat throughout the year, they tend to ramp up, leading into Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Bitdefender, more than half (56 per cent) of Black Friday spam/junk emails received between October 26 and November 6, 2022, were scams.

While your inbox may be filled with promises of amazing deals and discounts, approach your emails cautiously. Be wary of messages offering last-minute deals, and don’t click links contained within an email. It’s best to go to a retailer’s website directly and search for deals yourself.

4. Avoid “too good to be true” deals

There are lots of great deals to be had between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But some of them are just too good. Scammers will try to lure shoppers with incredible deals, typically by email, text message or social media ads. Significantly discounted luxury items or deals on items that are otherwise very hard to find are used as bait to lure in unsuspecting shoppers. The old saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” certainly applies here.

5. Set up banking alerts

Most financial institutions allow you to set up alerts to notify you of suspicious activity on your debit or credit card and when a purchase is made from your account. With alerts set up, you can immediately spot an unauthorized transaction and report it to your bank.

If you have an RBC Credit Card, for instance, you’ll automatically receive an SMS text message Alert from 722373 any time an unusual-looking Credit Card transaction is made. You can then respond directly to the message to confirm whether you made the transaction.

6. Don’t store your credit card details or other information

When you’re checking out this Black Friday/Cyber Monday, you may be asked for several pieces of information about yourself. Naturally, if you’re having an item shipped to you, you need to include your name and address. But if you’re asked for additional details that aren’t necessary for the purchase, don’t feel you need to include them. Keep in mind, your personal information is just that – personal.

And while websites may claim they will store your credit card information safely, the company that stores your data still may be vulnerable to a data breach. It’s best to avoid ticking the checkmark that asks you to store your credit card information for future purchases, as doing so increases the risk of your card information being stolen and being used for fraudulent purchases.

While it might take longer — entering your card information when you make a purchase reduces the chance of it being compromised.

There are plenty of great deals to be had over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday long weekend. Just be watchful and careful as you shop to avoid getting tricked by scammers out there. Follow the tips above to find legitimate sales and savings as the holiday shopping season begins.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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