Don’t be fooled on Black Friday!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, falling on the last weekend of November, kick off the holiday shopping season. From that moment, until Christmas, stores record increase of their retail sales by 30%. This is an opportunity for them to catch up. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of this by trapping customers in online stores with fake websites.

In the period immediately preceding the sales season, analysts at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs have observed an increasing number of scams involving fake websites that impersonate genuine storefronts.

To the untrained eye, such sites may look safe, but if you don’t pay enough attention, you could end up losing money and data – warns Jolanta Malak, Director of Fortinet in Poland. – Fake e-commerce sites are quickly becoming one of the most serious threats to consumers and affect many industries, as criminals look to lure as many potential customers as possible.

How victims are lured?

Consumers typically arrive at such sites by searching for keywords in search engines. They simply type in the name of a specific product they are interested in and it either appears in the “shopping” tab or is promoted using appropriately placed keywords. Another channel to reach consumers are promotions in social media.

As the internet develops, so does the software. As a result, the gap between professional and amateur-created e-commerce sites has narrowed significantly. This area was reserved until more than a decade ago for web development specialists, responsible for building and implementing a useful shopping mechanism. Today, a fake website can be easily designed by anyone with a working knowledge of content management systems (CMS).

This makes it increasingly difficult to detect fake websites without careful analysis of their code. In fact, someone with moderate technical knowledge can create a professional-looking e-commerce store in a matter of hours, especially if they use a proven template.

What to watch out for?

If an internet user comes across a suspicious offer, promotion, especially with an incentive to purchase goods as soon as possible, they should be very careful. For starters, look at your website for inconsistencies such as mismatched fonts, inconsistent color usage, changes in language style, grammar and spelling errors, etc. It is also worth checking the WHOIS records to see how long the domain has existed and hovering over the link to the site posted e.g. in emails to see if it contains a real domain address.

Certainly do not buy an item on impulse if it is unusually, for market realities, cheap. As the old adage goes, if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. You can send an email or call a representative of a company you suspect may be impersonating you and thus verify that the product prices listed are correct.

If, on the other hand, the emotions turned out to be stronger and the purchase was completed, first of all you should not panic. If consumers are concerned that they have fallen victim to fraud, they should call their credit card company immediately and let them know.