Make the Most of Your Holiday Shopping: Black Friday Safety Tips

Looking to score major deals on Black Friday? Use our shopping safety tips to help protect yourself from scammers this holiday season.

Women carrying shopping bags iStock

You can’t escape Black Friday. Whether it’s the nonstop television commercials, the barrage of social media ads or the office chatter about amazing one-day deals, the buzz around Black Friday shopping is constant and intense this time of year. Unfortunately, the increase in sales also makes it easier for criminals to fly under the radar. 

According to the 2023 Cybersecurity Almanac by Cybercrime Magazine, cybercrime will steal $8 billion globally this year. If cybercrime were thought of as a country’s economy, it would be the world’s third largest after the United States and China.

Is it called Black Friday because of all the alarming statistics? The truth is, the term Black Friday didn’t originally have anything to do with holiday shopping. Initially, it described a period in 1869 when there was a financial panic that drove up gold prices and eventually caused the market to crash. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the term was used by police in Philadelphia to describe the surge of people coming to the city to shop on the day after Thanksgiving. It caught on after that, but not everyone loved the name Black Friday due to its negative connotations. Retailers eventually came around to the idea of calling it Black Friday, citing the financial concept of “being in the black” (as opposed to “in the red”) to describe earnings and prosperity.

Over the last 70 years, the idea of Black Friday has caught on with retailers everywhere to lure shoppers away from their families and onto their devices to spend their hard-earned money. According to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday sales in 2022 broke records, with $9.12 billion in online revenue. That was up 2.3% from 2021 and broke the $9.03 billion record set in 2020. 

What might be most surprising about these numbers is that 48% of the online purchases were made on smartphones. With the increase in identity theft and credit card scams, how can you protect your information? We’ve put together a list of Black Friday safety tips that can help you avoid getting targeted by scammers while you’re doing your holiday shopping.

When is Black Friday this year?

Nov. 24 is Black Friday this year, a month before Christmas Eve, which makes it present-buying crunch time. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, is Nov. 27, ensuring a busy 2023 holiday shopping season for retailers and scammers alike.

Customer paying using credit card iStock

Black Friday safety tips

Here are some simple safety tips that can help you protect yourself. 

1. Only use one credit card on Black Friday.

An easy way to reduce your risk while shopping on Black Friday is to use a single credit card for all your purchases. This will make it easier for you to monitor the account and notice any possible fraudulent charges.

By using a credit card instead of a debit card, you have an increased level of protection from scammers, as most credit cards have zero-liability policies to protect you from having to pay for fraudulent purchases. Debit card purchases don’t offer this level of protection because the money is taken directly out of your bank account at the time of the purchase. 

With the rise of retailer data breaches, another advantage of using just one credit card is that it minimizes your exposure to such data breaches. If a single account is used for online purchases, then even if your information is leaked from multiple retailers, only one account is compromised.

 2. Keep an eye out in parking lots.

Even though cybercrime is on the rise, you still can’t be too wary of purse snatchers and pickpockets in parking lots. Robbery and larceny are two types of crime that increase by about 20 percent during the month of December, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Bustling shopping malls and store parking lots are perfect places in which to target busy shoppers. How can you avoid this type of crime? Plan to bring a buddy or two with you when you go shopping—there’s safety in numbers. If you’re shopping at night, be sure you park in a well-lit area and always have your keys ready when you approach your vehicle.

3. Steer clear of public Wi-Fi.

If your cellphone signal is spotty, a public Wi-Fi network might seem like a quick solution, but it could cost you. Public Wi-Fi networks often lack encryption, which means that any information you share on a public Wi-Fi system is not encoded in a way that would help protect the information. That makes it easy for scammers to manipulate these systems to get your personal data, including email addresses, passwords and even credit card information. 

What’s the best way to protect yourself from this type of scam on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Avoid making purchases on public Wi-Fi networks. Try to do most of your buying on a trusted, secure network. If you’re traveling, make sure any network you connect to is password-protected and secure. When you’re using a device, look for the lock icon in the internet browser’s search bar, which signifies that a website is encrypted.

Thief stealing wallet from women’s purse iStock

4. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

While busy parking lots are often hotbeds of holiday-season crime, they aren’t the only places you need to be aware of criminals. 

During November and December, schedules are packed with family get-togethers, holiday parties and the rush to get through mile-long to-do lists. All these holiday stressors make people overwhelmed and distracted, increasing the risk of careless mistakes they might not normally make. 

Simple slip-ups—like putting your purse in a shopping cart and not keeping an eye on it, or leaving your laptop visible in your car—expose you to crimes of opportunity. Your wallet has your ID, credit cards and personal information, creating a perfect chance for criminals if they steal it. The same applies to your electronic devices. 

Pull quote from article that states: If you need to use an ATM, do so before Black Friday and during daylight hours at a well-lit location.

During the frenzy of the holidays, make a point of staying aware. Keep your purses or bags zipped and near your body at all times, carry your wallet in your front pocket, and don’t leave valuables in plain sight. If you see something suspicious, say something to the nearest security guard or law enforcement officer.

5. Use an ATM a few days before Black Friday. 

People withdraw more cash during the holidays for gifts, leading to an increase in ATM-related crimes. Whether it’s thieves stealing money from you after you make your withdrawal, criminals installing cameras to steal your debit card number and PIN, or ATM skimming (where scammers install devices that appear to be regular machines but that intercept your information), ATMs are places where you should be especially vigilant during the holidays.

If you’re planning to make a large cash withdrawal, go inside the bank to a teller. If you need to use an ATM, do so before Black Friday and during daylight hours at a well-lit location. Be sure to cover the keypad when you enter your PIN to help thwart scammers. And to avoid skimming fraud, always inspect ATMs before using them. Look for loose, crooked or damaged parts. Outdoor ATMs at tourist locations and gas stations are exposed and more prone to tampering.

Purchase a AAA Membership this Black Friday. 

Want to buy an extra level of protection this Black Friday? With the purchase of AAA Membership, you also get free access to ProtectMyID. This is a service that monitors your credit accounts and lets you know if there is any unusual activity, such as credit inquiries or new accounts opened in your name. This holiday season, provide peace of mind with the gift of AAA Membership. 

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