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Black Friday or Fraud Friday?

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 25 Nov 2021

As we approach Black Friday and Cyber Monday, chartered accountants should take a moment to consider whether the offers they are seeing are really a good deal or whether they could be a scam.

Last year, Action Fraud reported 4,489 reports of shopper fraud on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which contributed to the annual figure of 28,049 shoppers defrauded while online shopping – a 61% increase on the year before. The average age of a victim of this type of fraud is between 20 – 49.

When ICAEW signed up to the Fraud Charter, it committed to creating and sharing educational materials on how to protect members and their clients against becoming victims of fraud. 

Sharing information with your clients about the fraud risks they are facing and how they can protect themselves is a crucial part of the ICAEW chartered accountant’s role as a trusted advisor. And although Black Friday is targeted at the consumer, it is important that firms understand fraud risk, whatever their source, and can talk knowledgeably to clients to identify appropriate mitigations. 

In this vein, it is important for members to ask essential questions such as: Do you know who you are giving your bank details to? Does the deal sound too good to be true? If it does, it probably is.

Reports in the media of shortages and concerns around COVID may encourage shoppers to take advantage of early deals on the internet making them more susceptible to fraud. 

Action Fraud has published the following tips to help shoppers stay safe online but the principles are relevant to protecting you, your staff and your clients against any kind of fraud:

How to protect yourself

Choosing where you shop: If you are making a purchase from a website or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first. Look online for reviews of the website or person you are buying from. If you are purchasing an item from an online marketplace, you can view the seller’s feedback history before going ahead with the purchase.

Payment method: Use a payment method that offers buyer protection, such as a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers will help you get your money back if the item is faulty or damaged, or if it never arrives.

Staying secure online: Use a strong, separate password for your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping. You should also enable two-factor authentication (2FA), where possible, which gives your online account additional protection by double checking that you really are the person you claim to be, when logging in. For further information about how to stay secure online, visit www.cyberaware.gov.uk.

Watch out for phishing emails or texts: Some of the emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites. If you are unsure, don't use the link and visit the website directly instead. If you receive an email you’re not quite sure about, you can report it by forwarding the email to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service at report@phishing.gov.uk. You can report suspicious texts you have received by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad. You can report suspicious websites via the National Cyber Security Centre’s scam website reporting service.

Action Fraud also advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud:

- stop and think before parting with money or information; 

- challenge whether the seller is who they say they are; 

- protect by contacting your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam.

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