How to avoid online shopping scams and fraud: Black Friday edition

3 min read
November 08, 2023

With so many sales right now it is easy to be sucked in by an unbelievable discount. Unfortunately, the excitement and chaos of Christmas shopping can leave us especially vulnerable to being exploited. 

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have released figures showing how, in 2021, consumers were scammed out of £15.3m during the Christmas shopping period (November to January).

The average loss is a staggering £1000 per person. And it was shoppers aged 19 to 25 who were most at risk.

The NCSC have launched a Cyber Aware campaign to raise awareness and issued advice to online shoppers. Here, we give you a summary of their top tips for staying safe online. 

Set up two-step verification on accounts

To bolster your cyber security you should activate two-factor authentication on all of your devices and accounts. 

Two-step verification adds an additional layer of security to the login or authentication process. It makes it harder for attackers to gain access to a person’s devices or online accounts. 

With two-step verification, you’ll be asked to put in your password, and then usually a code sent to your phone number or email address. So even if your password is hacked, it won’t be enough by itself to pass the authentication check.

Use random-word passwords 

These days everything is password protected. To the point where it can feel impossible to keep track. Most of us end up having a few standard passwords that we use for everything – perhaps the name of a pet or a favourite place.

However, to prevent cyber scammers from gaining access to shopping, bank or email accounts, it is vital not only to have different passwords for different accounts but to make them as strong as possible. 

Random three word passwords are much more secure. There are various websites that can generate them for you – such as Nexcess. If you’re worried about forgetting, you could choose a place from WhatThreeWords – where every coordinate on the map has a three word code.

If you’re concerned about losing track of all your passwords, keep a physical record somewhere safe in your home. 

Research and read reviews of online retailers 

Make sure you research online retailers, particularly if you haven’t bought from them before. Just because a company has an ad on social media, it doesn’t mean that they are legitimate. 

As well as checking out the company, make sure you read feedback from previous customers on a platform that you trust, such as consumer websites like Trustpilot.

Remember, fake reviews are a big problem these days – so check out our guide on how to spot one. You can also check the reviews on companies on the Resolver website – as these are impossible to fake. 

Want to know more about your rights? Check out our complete guide to online shopping.

Use secure payment methods and platforms

If you have one, it is best to use a credit card when shopping online. This is because most major credit card providers protect online purchases and will refund you in certain circumstances. Using a credit rather than a debit card also means that should your payment details be stolen, your main bank account will still be safe. 

NCSC also suggests using payment platforms like Paypal, Google or Apple pay, as they offer extra protection when paying for orders.

Whenever you pay, check that your connection is secure by looking for the closed padlock icon in the web address bar.

What to do if you think you’ve been targeted?

Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a scam or fraud should contact their bank immediately. You should then report it to Action Fraud – either online at or by calling 0300 123 2040. 


If you have any thoughts on this topic, or any other consumer issues you would like us to cover, feel free to get in touch with us at

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