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10 ways to avoid Black Friday rip-offs

Black Friday shop signs on the left and right, with a woman laughing maniacally in front of a computer in the centre.
Black Friday shopping can be fun but there are dangers lurking. (Images: Getty)

Black Friday has been a major sales day in the US for many years but is only just starting to creep into the Australian lexicon.

While there are many bargains up for grabs, Australians have been warned to take precautions before shopping like maniacs.

There are many dangers lurking for online shoppers that physical customers never had to worry about.

Mastercard business development and digital product vice president Surin Fernando told Yahoo Finance there are ten rules he would absolutely follow to stay safe this Black Friday:

1. Never email banking details

Email is the electronic equivalent postcards – there is zero privacy.

"No [authentic retailer] should contact you for personal information or account data," Fernando said.

"If this happens, delete the email, and reach out to your bank using the phone numbers on the back of your card. You can also visit your bank’s website to report suspicious activity.”

2. Look for the padlock

A padlock symbol to the left of the URL in the address bar of the browser indicates that the site is secure. That is, the information you and it exchanges is encrypted.

"Many online merchants ask you to provide some personal information to use their service. They may be seeking to verify your identity to process payment or for the delivery of goods. You should look for online merchants that promote their trust and safety credentials."

3. Check trustworthiness of retailer

Did you find a sensational Black Friday deal? Just hold on before ordering.

"It is important to stop and check that you are dealing with a legitimate business if it sounds too good to be true. Don’t be rushed into the purchase," said Fernando.

Do a simple Google search and check what other netizens have said about the retailer. Is it reliable? Have other shoppers been ripped off?

4. Check your statements

Many people never look at their bank account or credit card statements. But this is just asking for trouble.

"We encourage you to monitor your accounts and check your statements regularly for transactions that you don't recognise," Fernando told Yahoo Finance.

"Should you suspect fraudulent activity, contact the financial institution that issued your card immediately."

5. Use strong passwords

Using strong passwords, changing them regularly and not recording them in plain text are basic rules these days, but still important.

"Ensure you use a strong password which contains a mix of letters, numbers and symbols with no personal information included," said Fernando.

"Enable multi-factor authentication and add biometrics to access accounts."

6. Don't use public computers or wifi

A bit like public transport, you have no idea where it's been and who else will get on.

"Don't access personal bank accounts, or sensitive personal data, on unsecured public networks," Fernando said.

"Don't shop online when using public Wi-Fi, as making purchases online requires personal information that could include bank account and login credentials."

7. Install security software

Not only installing it, but make sure the security software is up-to-date to protect against the latest threats. Back-up of data on your computer and mobile phones should be performed regularly.

"Any device that connects to the internet should have security software," said Fernando.

"Often the latest software update is enhancing security settings, which reset your current settings. No matter what the device, don’t delay when it comes to updating your software."

8. Install device updates

We've all pressed "later" when prompted to install system updates. But this could put you, your device and your data in danger.

"Many of us use mobile smart devices to access the internet for social media use and online shopping. This offers great convenience, however, it can open us up to a number of risks. It is important to protect your device and the information on it."

9. Don't automatically connect to new networks

Always make sure the wifi network you're hooking onto is trustworthy. Don't let your computer or phone just automatically connect to any network that it detects.

"Turn off automatic connectivity. Most smartphones, laptops, and tablets have automatic connectivity settings, which allow you to seamlessly connect to any network," Fernando told Yahoo Finance.

"Keep these settings turned off, especially when you’re travelling to unfamiliar places."

10. Check social network privacy settings

A person's most sensitive and personal information these days could be stored on their social media profile.

"You don’t want to become complacent with security. While banks and payment technology companies devote a lot of effort to protect consumers, it is important that you keep vigilant [elsewhere] online."

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