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Black Friday alert: Shoppers hunt bargains while fraudsters find opportunities

© FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA-EFE/ShuterstockShoppers make the most of Black Friday sales last year but it’s also a busy weekend for scammers
Shoppers make the most of Black Friday sales last year but it’s also a busy weekend for scammers

Shoppers are being warned to watch out for scams and rip-off deals ahead of the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events.

One in five UK consumers is expected to increase their spend from 2021 levels despite the cost of living crisis, with one in 10 using the occasion to complete most of their Christmas shopping, according to a study by customer engagement platform Emarsys.

Black Friday happens this week, with Cyber Monday following a few days later. Last year, UK consumers spent £9.42 billion over the course of the big sales weekend.

According to the research, the average UK consumer is expected to spend £283 this weekend – a 25% increase from £226 in 2021. There’s a recognition that Black Friday is an opportunity to make big savings, even without a specific purchase in mind.

However, the sales weekend will also be a busy one for crooks, said the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

The agency is warning people to be conscious of scams during the sales events and cautions that sometimes a deal may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

CTSI lead officer Katherine Hart said: “It seems that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events get bigger every year. However, we all must remain vigilant and practise shopping safety.

“Sometimes sellers raise their prices before a sales period to make it look like a great deal is on offer during the sale. Fortunately, there are websites, such as Camel Camel Camel, which tracks the price history of products on Amazon so you can check if you’re getting a good deal.

“Most seriously, the prospect of scams rears its ugly head, and the Covid-19 pandemic saw an array of scams target the public while misusing shopping brands such as Amazon, along with delivery companies like Royal Mail and DPD, to cloak their intent.”

She warned people not to get sucked into flash sales in which you are pressurised to buy.

“Be careful of hidden add-ons such as insurance or inflated delivery costs,” she said, “as they can pile up and what looked like a good deal might be more expensive than you initially thought.”

Hart said the public should also be aware that some scammers clone legitimate websites in attempts to steal banking details, while other websites may sell counterfeit or unsafe goods.

She said: “Black Friday is a big day on the calendar for criminals as well as for shoppers and the sales are also an opportunity for businesses to get rid of unwanted or outdated stock that is dressed up as a bargain.”

Hart advised contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline if concerned about a business, product or website. If you believe you have uncovered a scam, contact the police.

“Trading Standards services are working to keep consumer confidence high through effective protection, and the co-operation of the public maximises that protection,” she said. “We must warn others and report every instance of bad business practices and scams so that enforcement authorities get a complete picture of the scale of this problem.”

She added: “Above all, take advantage of the deals, but be alert and don’t let websites pressure you into purchasing until you’ve done all the due diligence about the platform, the product, and the deal itself.”

For consumer advice, call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. To report scams, contact Police Scotland