Please note: all guidance and information contained in this post was correct at the time of publishing, but may now be out of date.

Black Friday Survival Guide

Nov 24, 2020 | Counter Fraud Fundamentals

Despite the fact that Black Friday originates in the US, it has become a significant event in the UK retail calendar. UK consumers will spend an estimated £6.2 billion over Black Friday and Cyber Monday with 88% of this spend expected to be online (PwC UK). So what is Black Friday, how did it start and how can you keep yourself safe when shopping online over this busy period?

Where did this custom come from?
In the 1950s many people in the US used to call in to work pretending to be sick on the day after Thanksgiving in order to give themself a four day weekend and a head start on the Christmas shopping. Eventually, many businesses caved in and gave their staff another day off. With people off work, shops started to offer special deals and one day offers to get the Christmas season started, so Black Friday became a significant shopping day.

Why is it black?
A day of the week is often described as ‘black’ when it is associated with a stock market crash or financial disaster of some sort. This Friday holiday was  initially dubbed, ‘black eye Friday’ by some due to the pushing and shoving and even physical fighting over sale items.
In more recent times, Black Friday has become the biggest shopping day of the year and the ‘black’ is now seen to stand for profit as accounting books tip from the red of debt, into the black.

Black Friday comes to the UK
Between 2010-2013, UK shops caught onto the trend and Black Friday shopping deals have gradually built up momentum to make it the busiest time of the year in retail.
Stores used to compete to open as early as possible on Black Friday with queues of people waiting sometimes overnight to get into the store first and get their hands on some bargains.

Black Friday during lockdown
This year, there are social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of COVID 19, so large crowds are a bad idea, yet retailers still have large amounts of stock built up from the lockdowns and a shortfall in sales. For this reason, it makes sense more than ever for traders to offer deals throughout the month in what some people are calling Black November.

Cyber Monday
For those that literally cannot go to the shops because they are in lockdown, online shopping is the only way to shop.
Cyber Monday is the Monday after Black Friday and each year, this online shopping extravaganza seems to start earlier and earlier. The explosion of transactions around this date escalates each year, reflecting the massive growth of internet retailing. The 24 hour convenience is a high priority, however, the increasing power and availability of mobile phones is significantly driving that growth as now most people can shop at their convenience where ever they happen to be.

Big business for criminals
It is not only companies that take advantage of the growth of Cyber Monday, but cyber criminals do too. Attacks have become more sophisticated and shoppers need to be alert and cautious when looking for online bargains.

Cyber criminals are people who commit crimes online, the crimes are frequently different types of theft and fraud.

As a victim of cyber crime, you might:

  • Find yourself on a fake website and pay for items that do not exist.
  • Have your payment card details stolen and fraudulent purchases made from it or have your bank account cleared out.
  • Have your personal details such as payment card, name, address, user-name and passwords stolen, and credit cards and loans taken out in your name.
  • Have your stolen user-name and passwords tried on all your other accounts to see if any anything else can be stolen. These details can be sold on to other cyber criminals.

Here are some essential Black Friday tips to stay safe while shopping online.

Check the website is secure
Hover your mouse over the web address in the address bar. You are looking for a closed padlock symbol in the address bar and ideally, the address will start with, https:// Without a https, any data passed on the side can be intercepted by criminal third parties.
It must be noted, that although it is a good starting point to check for the padlock symbol and the https, they are by no means a guarantee that a website is secure, as even fake websites can have those features.

Watch out for fake websites
If you are searching up brands and looking for best deals on the web, you can be taken to a fake website that is selling counterfeit goods or things that you will never ever get.
Firstly, check the web address, there may be slight differences such as instead of, it is .org . Are the words spelt correctly? Criminals actually buy up domain names that are very slightly different to recognized brands hoping to take advantage of people’s typos. The pictures on the website might be slightly pixilated and other content seem odd or sub standard, but yet again,  some fake websites are truly well done and look as good as the real ones. Keep your wits about you and if the deals are too good to be true, this is probably the case.

Use a credit card for online shopping
If a fraudulent purchase is made on your credit card, there’s a good chance your credit card provider will reimburse you straight away, a debit card does not have the same protection. Credit card accounts may also have anti-fraud measures in place that block large or unusual purchases or require additional authentication from your mobile phone. You can set up alerts on your credit card where you are contacted if a payment over a certain amount has been requested.

Do not use public Wi-fi to go shopping
Unsecured Wi-fi like the one you might find in a coffee shop or train or hotel is not a safe environment to make transactions, or indeed even check your email or instant messages. Anyone within that network may be able to hack into your device and steal your valuable personal information.

Beware of phishing emails and social media scams
There is a massive increase in scams around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many of which start in a fraudulent email or a link on Facebook or Twitter. They may appear to come from a well known retailer or favourite brand, or your bank or paypal account, they might offer great deals or cash prizes or they might inform you that your account has been frozen and you need to take urgent action. These are all tricks to get you to click on a link or to take you to a fake website or ring a premium phone line. The fake authentication process that follows will allow your security information to be stolen.Be aware of these very common scams and if anything feels a bit odd, or you feel stressed by high pressure tactics, delete immediately. Better still, never click on a link from an email or social media site unless you are 100% sure it is legitimate. You can read more about phishing here.

Use strong passwords
If your password exists in the dictionary, it can be busted in seconds by the average cyber criminal who uses a computer to do the job. Instead, use three random words that you can remember with a mixture of upper and lower case and a few numbers and symbols. It’s very important to use a different password for every account that you have, this is because if one account is breached and your password discovered, criminals cannot break into all your other accounts.To make your life a lot simpler, try using a password manager such as Lastpass, Dashlane or Keeper to take care of all your passwords so you don’t have to remember them. You can usually download one from their website for free.