While shopping the Black Friday sales online will keep you safe from the dangers of overcrowded shop floors (elbows are sharp), you do need to be aware of the more insidious scams that Black Friday browsing can leave you open to.
To help you navigate the online Black Friday sales and arm yourself against scammers, we’ve got some tips to bear in mind.
Buy from traders you know and trust
When it comes to shopping online, it's always safest to stick to familiar shops and brands that you know you can trust.
Picture it like a real high street. It's not likely that you're going to ignore your favorite legitimate shops and make a beeline for the ramshackle stall manned by a shifty individual just because he’s slightly undercutting their prices. It wouldn’t feel sensible or safe in real life, so don’t do it online.
To make things easy for you we've listed some of the biggest and most trusted UK retailers that will be taking part in Black Friday this year.
- Amazon Black Friday
- John Lewis Black Friday
- Currys Black Friday
- Argos Black Friday
- ToysRUs Black Friday
- PC World Black Friday
US-side there are some other retailers worth your attention.
Don't trust blindly
Of course, even though these are trusted retailers, we're not advising you to trust blindly that they're giving you the best deal.
According to an investigation by Which? almost half of the products in 2015's Black Friday sales had actually been cheaper in months before or after Black Friday.
Which? also found that numerous offers from retailers such as AO and Currys also had inflated "Was" legacy pricing to make it look like customers were getting a better deal. According to Which?:
"When promoting a discount like ‘was £100, now £50’, the ‘was’ price should be the most recent price the item was sold at for 28 consecutive days or more, and not a price that is more than six months old."
In light of this, it's best to start looking into the pricing of products you're interested in before Black Friday (preferably now) just to make sure you're not being misled in how much of a deal you're getting.
When it comes to laptops and Apple products, it's also worth making sure you know exactly which specs to look out for and which are the sign of an old model being flogged off. We've put together some guides to help you here.
Do some digging
There are some stores online that aren’t mainstream brands but are still trustworthy places to shop. If you feel you must shop with an unknown trader, make sure you research them first. Usually the best thing to do is look for reviews of the website and a reliable way to contact the site owner that isn’t just email in the event your delivery goes wrong.
The most obvious things to look out for that signal a scam website are, firstly, website quality and copy/editorial quality. Someone trying to make a quick buck out of you isn’t going to labor over their website’s UI and crafting flawless copy so if something about a website’s design feels less than professional or you spot more than one spelling error it’s worth being suspicious.
If you’re not sure of a website, make sure you have a look at the URL when you’re paying for your purchase. Any transaction you make should be on a page with an HTTPS link rather than an HTTP link as this ensures the transaction is safely encoded.
No matter where you’re shopping, always use a secure form of payment. This means opt for a credit card, a debit card, or even PayPal over any direct money transfers.
Credit card is probably the most secure option in terms of shopper rights as you can dispute charges made if your item never arrives or dispute any suspicious charges generally.
It's also a good idea to use two-factor authentication on your online shopping accounts wherever possible. It's not every retailer that has these, but it's worth noting that Amazon does. Two-step authentication simply adds another layer of security to your account, requiring you to enter a security code sent via text or call as well as your password when you're signing in.
Don't click on strange links
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on your laptop or on your phone or whether the link appears in your email inbox, WhatsApp messages or pops up on your Facebook News Feed, don’t click any strange or unfamiliar ad links.
It seems obvious but you don’t know where that link is going to go and what kind of malware is lying in wait there. There are few modern embarrassments quite like clicking one of those links that posts its deal from your account to every one of your Facebook friends or WhatsApp contacts; malware spreaders never get to take care of their friends’ cats.
Update your antivirus software
Speaking of which, accidents do happen so to avoid the worst make sure your antivirus and phone software is up to date so that you don’t fall victim to anything truly terrible.
- These are the best free antivirus programs for 2017
Check returns policies
One thing that’s worth noting even with retailers you trust: check their returns policies. Sure, you managed to grab some great bargains but there’s no guarantee you’re going to be happy with all of them on delivery day. And we've all experience the impulse buy hangover.
Though return periods are usually extended during the holiday season, some retailers might not take part in this and some could have shorter return windows specifically for electronics, so it’s worth being aware of how long you have to make up your mind. If you do decide to return something make sure you know exactly what you need for proof of purchase as well as how and where you need to return it.
For sale items you might find a return is entirely out of the question, leaving you lumped with a gift card. Bearing this in mind, it’s worth checking whether this is the case before you commit to a purchase you’re not entirely certain of.
Since Black Friday is not the only time in the festive period prices will be cut, it's worth seeking out retailers that offer price promises so that if the item you purchased drops in price in the weeks following Black Friday you can be assured of a refund.
Now that you're armed with information, happy shopping!
- Don't miss our guide to the best Black Friday deals in 2017