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Pocket Guide to Black Friday Scams: How I Almost Gave My Credit Card Details for Coffee Coupons

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. Last year, Black Friday sales in the U.S. increased 6.6 percent over the same day in 2010. Americans spent $11.40 billion, the biggest dollar amount ever spent during the day, according to ShopperTrak. But some hidden retailers are also making special offers: malware writers, phishers and all sorts of cyber-criminals take advantage of the shopping feast.

Everybody wants the hottest products at the lowest prices, and many people shop online. This is why Black Friday is a humongous virtual market with millions of clients to be scammed. Here’s where an obvious “black friday” search and my morning coffee appetite brought me:

I must admit the offer was tempting: $100 Free Starbucks Gift Cards. Who would say “no” to that? Of course, the deal was limited and only 5,000 cards were available, so I had to hop in quick. But wait, something popped up…

It seems the Black Friday website was actually gathering sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card details it later used for identity theft and fraud.

Web of Trust also warned me this website has a poor reputation, and tech-savvy users commented about avoiding it at all cost.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you stay safe online and enjoy your Black Friday:

First, try to refine your searches. According to a popular Google tool, the expression “black friday” has more than 6 million global monthly searches online, mostly from the U.S. This is also what scammers try to populate with malicious results, so be careful what you click on in search engines.

Talking about free gifts, keep your scam detector en garde for social network cyber-crooks. Black Friday may increase the free gifts scams on Facebook and Pinterest, which appears to share most scam baits with Facebook, including bogus giveaways. In the meantime, get anti-scam protection for you and your friends with Safego, the free Bitdefender tool that scans and detects malware, spam, scams, phishing and dangerous private data exposure on Twitter and Facebook.

If the Black Friday experience in traditional stores makes you want to shop with a cup of coffee in your PJs, do it in the “Grandma” style. Nice and slow clicks on official stores and good reputation websites make you less vulnerable. Compulsive clickers and web surfers who jump from one page to another are the perfect candidates for the cyber-crooks’ trap.

If you receive e-mails in your inbox allegedly from Black Friday websites or retailers with incredible deals, don’t click on any of the links or attachments. It may hide malware and phishing or signal spammers that your account is valid, so they will start pumping back thousands of unsolicited messages.

When you decide to buy something online, first check the retailers’ official websites. Keep your browser, your software and your antivirus updated. To shop in a safe Black Friday haven, use a solution that also secures Internet banking and payments.

Bitdefender Total Security 2013 includes Safepay, a browser that protects credit card information, account numbers and any other sensitive data you may enter while accessing different online locations.

About the author


Bianca Stanescu, the fiercest warrior princess in the Bitdefender news palace, is a down-to-earth journalist, who's always on to a cybertrendy story. She's the industry news guru, who'll always keep a close eye on the AV movers and shakers and report their deeds from a fresh new perspective. Proud mother of one, she covers parental control topics, with a view to valiantly cutting a safe path for children through the Internet thicket. She likes to let words and facts speak for themselves.

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