How to avoid online holiday shopping scams this Black Friday and beyond

Look for the lock symbol when making online purchases.
Look for the lock symbol when making online purchases. (Photo: iStock)

Black Friday is just around the corner and usually marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, Black Friday can also mark the beginning of holiday shopping scams, especially if you are an online shopper.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that, so far this year, Canadians have lost more than $32 million to Internet, email, social media and text scammers.

The Canadian Competition Bureau has just released a consumer alert to warn shoppers about online deals that seem too good to be true. Such scams are often found on social media, in which ads advertise high-end brands for “bargain-basement” prices.

Calgary police have also warned shoppers to be vigilant, because online fraud usually increases during the holiday season.

You need to take an extra look at some of the digital material you receive on social media or email,” Calgary Police Services Staff Sgt. Cory Dayley told the Calgary Herald.

If you are going online shopping on Black Friday or at another point during the holiday season, here are some tips to avoid being defrauded:

  • Don’t use a public Wi-Fi network to make online purchases. Public Wi-Fi connections are usually not very secure;
  • Don’t give out private information such as your social insurance number, date of birth or driver’s licence to the seller;
  • Watch out for unexpected emails. If you get an email that says there is a problem with a purchase you don’t recall making, and it asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, it’s likely a phishing scam;
  • Know your seller. A reputable seller will usually have a lot of information about its business, such as location, phone number and fax number. Also look for legitimate reviews about the seller; and
  • Look for the lock symbol when making online purchases. This can be found in the address bar or in the URL, which should begin with “https.”

If you suspect that the Internet website on which you are shopping is fraudulent or that you have been scammed, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or your local police unit.

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