7 Types of Common Black Friday Scams and How to Avoid Them

The annual retail chaos that ensues during Black Friday can be a lot for shoppers to deal with as is. To make things worse, recent years have seen a significant rise in Black Friday scams — this may have something to do with the world’s growing preference for online shopping. According to statistics by Adobe Analytics1, online shoppers spent a whopping $110 billion between the 1st and 29th of November in 2021.

Adding to the usual Black Friday pandemonium, Black Friday scams are a formidable force to reckon with. Despite originating in the United States, the phenomenon has spread throughout the world. According to the Guardian2, Britons lost more than £15 million ($17 million) in scams in the run-up to Christmas in 2020. 

To help keep you safe this Black Friday, I’ve put together a list of Black Friday scams to look out for with a list of tips on how to avoid them. But first, let’s explore the history behind the fascinating tradition of Black Friday — how did it come about in the first place?

A Brief History of Black Friday

The term “Black Friday” dates back to 1869 and originally had nothing to do with post-Thanksgiving shopping. Rather, it marked the day when diminishing gold prices led to a huge financial crash. It was started by two notorious Wall Street players who bought up as much of the nation’s gold as they could afford, hoping to sell it at extortionate prices. When the public got news of their conspiracy, it sent financial markets spiraling downwards, leaving everyone, from Wall Street financiers to farmers, much worse off. 

The phrase “Black Friday” as we know it today was the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving when Americans chaotically shopped, taking advantage of post-holiday discounts. The Philadelphia Police Department named it “Black Friday” to describe the public uproar, dense traffic jams, and crowded sidewalks. 

Black Friday slowly spread to Europe and Amazon played a huge part in popularizing it when it introduced Black Friday deals to European and UK markets in 2010. To stay afloat amongst fierce competition, local retailers quickly followed suit so they wouldn’t miss out on the fruits of the phenomenon. 

Fun fact: In the context of post-holiday shopping, the term “black” refers to how retailers made profits instead of losses. In contrast, the term “in the red” describes being in debt or losing money.

Can You Get Scammed Shopping Online?

Online shopping scams are a huge threat to shoppers because it can be difficult to tell the difference between what’s legitimate and what isn’t. Cybercriminals use highly sophisticated strategies to imitate genuine sites and evoke trust —  they’re true experts. It often takes a keen eye and hard-won experience to know the difference between an authentic sales pitch and a scam. 

Want to improve your online security quickly? CyberGhost has one of the best Black Friday VPN deals. Secure your devices’ connections with our uncrackable 256-bit AES encryption. This prevents snoopers from following you around the web and using various cyber attacks to infiltrate your connection and spy on everything you do online.

Why Is Black Friday a Target For Cybercriminals?

Between shoppers’ eagerness to get killer deals and the sheer number of online sales campaigns, Black Friday is the perfect habitat for cybercriminals to blend into. People often save money to spend on Black Friday and scammers know this. 

When Black Friday was purely physical, it wasn’t easy for scammers to trick people, as shoppers went to trusted retailers. But with the growing trend of online shopping, it’s easier for them to pose as trusted outlets and get you to buy something that sadly never arrives at your door. 

The Impact of the Pandemic

Data from Sensormatic Solutions3 shows that during the pandemic, in-store Black Friday shopping dropped by 28% and nearly 51% of shoppers reported feeling anxious about physical shopping. So, people did less shopping? Not at all, they shopped more. 

According to Census Bureau statistics, e-commerce sales rose by 43% in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. While people weren’t free to spend money in restaurants or go to bars, they were free to shop online to their heart’s content

Amazon’s profits increased by a staggering 220% throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and they collected $27 billion in profit between April 2020 and March 2021. 

7 Types of Black Friday Scams

Scammers and cybercriminals have plenty of ways to trick you into giving them money or revealing your financial details. Buying online is always risky, as you need to put in your full card information to authorize payments. Educating yourself about the common types of Black Friday Scams can prime you to recognize them. I did some research and put together a list of the most common types:

1. Black Friday Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are when cybercriminals pose as authentic businesses and send you emails, SMS texts, or social media messages to lure you into divulging personal information or credit card details. They may also send you malicious links that wreak havoc on your devices if you click on them. In the run-up to Black Friday, many businesses launch marketing campaigns for legitimate products, so cybercriminals can easily camouflage themselves as being part of that wave.

          • What to do: If you’re a victim of a phishing scam and worry that your personal information might be at risk, contact your bank to freeze your card until the problem is solved. You may need to cancel the card completely and order a new one to stop recurring theft. Change your account passwords and make sure to run a virus scan to remove malware from your device. 

Using an anti-malware program in addition to a high-quality VPN can make it more difficult for scammers to target you. A VPN hides your IP address from trackers and snoopers, and while it can’t protect you if you freely offer your information to a scammer, it can make it less likely for them to find your email address in the first place

Personal information like addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses are often found on websites tracking your activity. Using a VPN can stop this from happening.

2. Non-Delivery Scams

Non-delivery scams are when you buy a product online that never gets delivered — and it was never going to. You select the product, enter your card details and shipping address and press confirm. The tracking code and confirmation email you were expecting to receive never comes. You email the seller, but they don’t respond. You try to call the number and it’s not in service. You just got scammed. 

          • What to do: Find proof of your purchases and document your failed attempts to contact the seller. Contact your bank or PayPal to see what they can do to help to prevent further theft. They might be able to reverse any payments you made. You might need to cancel your card and get a new one. Contact law enforcement to make them aware of the scam and write reviews on forums to alert other people about the scam. 

3. Fake Charity Scams

Does the heartwarming holiday spirit get you in the mood for giving? If so, you’re not alone, and research4 indicates that more people give charitable donations around Christmas. So much so, that 31% of all annual giving takes place in December. And wherever there is online spending or giving, cybercriminals will be lurking. Fake charity scams are also common around Black Friday, so be sure that the charity you’re donating to is legitimate. 

          • What to do:
          • Search for the charity’s website instead of clicking on links in promotions
          • Check that the charity is a registered NGO
          • Look at online reviews and forums
          • Contact the charity before donating

If you’ve been scammed and have already given your financial details, call your bank to cancel the payments and alert the relevant authorities. 

4. Black Friday Voucher Scams

Gift vouchers make great Christmas gifts as they allow people to choose their favorite products from retailers they love. Black Friday voucher scams often offer deals that are way too good to be true. For example, they might say that if you buy the voucher today, you can buy products at Black Friday prices even after Christmas. 

Other types of gift card scams will try to get your legitimate gift card voucher number by offering crazy deals and pretending to be genuine retailers. That’s why it’s important to treat your vouchers like regular cash — don’t give out your gift card number unless you’re sure it’s to the genuine seller. 

          • What to do: If you’ve fallen victim to a Black Friday voucher scam and have accidentally given away your voucher number, it might be worth contacting the seller. There’s a chance the scammer hasn’t used it yet, and you might be able to have the number canceled in exchange for a new one. There’s no guarantee they’ll accommodate you, but the more evidence you gather, the more likely it is you’ll get help. 

5. Scam Callers

Recent years have seen an increase in call scams. These types of scams use social engineering tactics to try to get you to reveal personal information. This information can be sold on the dark web for quite a pretty penny. Cybercriminals use it to commit identity theft or to access your personal accounts and hold your data for ransom. 

Amazon call scams have become increasingly popular all over the world. I have experience with this one myself. I got a call, and when I answered, a pre-recording told me that there was a charge on my Amazon Prime account — I don’t have an Amazon Prime account. 

Then a person came on the line and I explained that I don’t have an Amazon Prime account. He proceeded to explain that I do have one and that the charge would happen every month unless I canceled over the phone. I recognized that it was a scam and just hung up.

If I would have let the conversation continue, I’m sure he would have asked me for my personal information, including my bank account details. I researched it online, and sure enough, plenty of people fell victim to it. If you get a call like this report it to Amazon so they can get the number blacklisted. 

          • What to do: The best thing that you can do if you receive a suspicious phone call is to hang up and not engage with them. The longer they keep you on the phone, the more information they’re likely to extract from you. If you have any doubts whether it was the real vendor, contact them via an official email address or phone number to verify. This will also help to alert them of the scam and take countermeasures against it.

6. Social Media Scams

It’s pretty easy to impersonate genuine businesses on social media. All you really need to do is use the business logo as the profile picture and put up enough phony content to convince people. These fake pages will offer you something for “free” in return for filling in a seemingly harmless survey, wherein you divulge enough personal information for them to take advantage of you. 

These fake profiles stay online until they are reported by enough people. Even then, it might take the social media platform some time to realize the account is fraudulent and take it down. That’s plenty of time for cybercriminals to get what they were looking for. 

7. Fake Package Collection Scams

Black Friday falls within the prime gift-giving season, and that often comes with surprise packages arriving at your door from loved ones who send gifts. Like most things, there’s a dark side to this, too. You might get a call or SMS saying there’s a package for you to collect, but before collecting it, you need to pay a small fee

They give you a link to make this small payment, and that’s it — your financial details are exposed to scammers. In general, you’re either getting a delivery or you’re not.

          • What to do: If you get one of these text messages, you should just ignore it. You can also check Google to see whether this is a common scam. If you come across forums with people reporting similar experiences, it’s almost definitely a scam. You can also contact the organization the SMS is supposedly coming from to confirm if there really is a package awaiting you. 

How to Avoid Black Friday Scams

You’d think switching to online shopping would be better, since you’re avoiding those hoards of shoppers fighting over the same items. Unfortunately, your Black Friday shopping is now threatened by people trying to scam you. The best thing you can do is educate yourself about common cybercrime tactics and learn how to avoid them. Here are a few things you can do to avoid Black Friday Scams.

Know the Golden Rules

When it comes to avoiding scams, there are a few “golden rules” you should follow. While following them won’t make your security ship water-tight, it definitely puts you at an advantage and makes you more alert. 

Between being stringent with your personal information and knowing when a deal seems too good to be true, you’re already in a safer position than most.

Only Shop With Reputable Sellers

While new legitimate sellers are popping up all the time, do your research before engaging with them. Plenty of fraudulent sellers are roaming the virtual streets out there, and learning the difference between what is a scam and what isn’t takes a bit of a knack. Check Trustpilot, read forums and reviews, and when in doubt, opt out.

Beware of Dodgy Websites 

Knowing the difference between a secure website and a shady one is a great skill for online security. Websites without the “https” tag at the beginning of the domain are less secure. When you visit a dodgy website, they can track what you’re doing, take your information, and inject malware into your device. This is especially true if you click on a malicious link or willingly offer your personal information to them. 

That’s why it’s really important to invest in digital security. Using a strong anti-malware system alongside a high-grade VPN can protect you from a lot of threats.  

Don’t Use Debit Cards For Online Purchases

Unlike most credit cards, debit card purchases are not protected against scams. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects people from credit card scams, and when you lose money, the credit card company will often reimburse your losses. So, if you have the option to use a credit card instead, then do. 

Create a Disposable Virtual Card

Financial services like Revolut, Wise, Citi Cards, and NetSpend allow you to create disposable one-time virtual cards for online purchases. Using these, you can minimize damage if you happen to purchase from a fraudulent “seller.” While in most cases you won’t be able to retrieve lost money, you can stop them from taking more. Instead of having to cancel your card and alert your bank, you can simply dispose of the card so no more money can be stolen from you. 

Use a VPN 

Using a VPN can protect you when browsing on public Wi-Fi or when visiting unfamiliar websites. A VPN also protects your digital identity from snoopers looking for information like your contact details, IP address, or online activity which they can use to scam you. However, they cannot protect you against social engineering scams — where you  willingly hand over your details. 

A VPN can also help you find even better Black Friday deals from retailers that use dynamic pricing techniques. Just hide your online activity from snooping companies and switch to an IP address in a less expensive region, and reap the benefits!

Quick Checklist For Avoiding Black Friday Scams
Only shop with reputable sellers
Use credit cards instead of debit cards
Opt for in-store shopping
Beware of dodgy websites
Create a disposable virtual card
Use a VPN to secure your connection

Can CyberGhost VPN Protect You from Black Friday Scams?

CyberGhost is a world-class VPN service. Yet, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that a VPN can protect you from Black Friday scams — they can’t. VPNs can protect your online privacy from hackers, snoopers, government surveillance, and ruthless advertisers by concealing your identity. But if you enter your card details into a scammy website, it’s out of anybody else’s control. 

The thing is, Black Friday scams aren’t the only digital threat you’ll face online — it’s a battlefield out there every day of the year. If you’re concerned about your internet security, consider investing in a VPN. 

Keep Safe This Black Friday

Black Friday carries a rich and interesting history and it continues to be a prime time for getting low prices on otherwise expensive goods. Don’t let cybercriminals suck the fun out of your Black Friday shopping by arming yourself for the battlefield of scams. While using a VPN can’t protect you if you willingly give your details away to the wrong people, it can protect you from snoopers on your network, surveillance, and advertisers.


Can you get actual deals on Black Friday? 

You can often find heavily-discounted prices on Black Friday as retailers and sellers try to clear out stock. It’s important to know the regular value of the product you’re purchasing to know whether it’s actually a good deal or not. Make sure you’re buying from genuine retailers and avoid Black Friday scams.

Is Black Friday the best time of the year for big purchases?

While there are certainly some great deals to be had on Black Friday, savvy shoppers should exercise caution. For one thing, many retailers use loss leaders, which are items that are heavily discounted in order to lure shoppers into the store with the hope that they’ll spend more money on other items. Many retailers also mark up the prices of items before Black Friday so they can give “big discounts” on the day which aren’t really much of a discount.

What are the most popular Black Friday scams?

          • Black Friday Phishing Scams. You might receive phishing emails, SMS phishing texts, or social media messages offering exclusive Black Friday deals with malicious links.
          • Non-delivery Scams. This is when you purchase a product from a fake seller and it never arrives.
          • Fake Package Collection Scams. You might receive text messages saying you need to pay a small fee to collect a package that somebody has sent you. You’ll be asked to fill in your card details to pay the small fee.
How can you stay safe from Black Friday scams?

          • If it seems too good, it probably is
          • Only make payments if you feel 100% confident about them
          • Don’t give out personal details
          • Research new brands and websites before buying from them
          • Don’t click on suspicious links
          • Use a strong VPN to protect your online privacy when visiting unfamiliar websites.


  1. https://business.adobe.com/resources/holiday-shopping-report.html
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/nov/22/banks-police-shoppers-vigilant-black-friday-scams
  3. https://www.sensormatic.com/resources/pr/2021/2021-black-friday-recap
  4. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215844

Leave a comment

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*