Black Friday 2018: WhatsApp scam tricks people looking for deals

'If an advert for an online deal or discount looks too good to be true, it probably is'

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 23 November 2018 17:23 GMT
Fake coupons claiming to offer great deals for supermarkets are spreading on the popular messaging app
Fake coupons claiming to offer great deals for supermarkets are spreading on the popular messaging app

Cyber security experts have warned Black Friday shoppers to be extra vigilant when hunting for online deals and discounts, after scam messages began circulating on WhatsApp.

Fraudsters are using the popular messaging app to spread fake links to vouchers for supermarkets and other retailers, with some messages encouraging users to share the link with 10 people or more in order to receive the offer.

But the deal is not real and the message is intended only to make sure the link gets shared around – and then trick people into clicking it, exposing people to malware and other attacks.

"Black Friday is a minefield for shoppers and presents a huge opportunity for cyber criminals to take advantage of unaware Brits," Raj Samani, chief scientist and fellow at the online security firm McAfee, said in an emailed statement to The Independent.

"Consumers should remember that if an advert for a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is – think before you click on a link to a discount. The same goes for emails and messages you receive through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. If a great discount lands in your inbox, you are best off to check out the site directly rather than clicking on any links."

Figures from McAfee reveal the malware threat to consumers doubled in 2017 during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period, while the ransomware risk increased by more than a third.

A recent report by threat intelligence firm RiskIQ found that the brand names of leading retailers were used in malicious links in order to trick people into sharing their login credentials or credit card details with cyber criminals.

"With more people than ever poised to partake in this year’s November shopping frenzy, attackers will capitalize by using the brand names of leading e-tailers to exploit users looking for Black Friday deals and coupons by creating fake mobile apps and landing pages to fool consumers into downloading malware," the report stated.

A spokesperson for WhatsApp was not immediately available for comment.

Law enforcement agencies in the UK and elsewhere warned about the risks facing shoppers at this time of year.

"Don't click links or downloads in emails from people you don't know," Essex Police announced. "Online fraudsters use #BlackFriday to take the opportunity to scam victims during the busy online period.

The proliferation of online scams on Black Friday also prompted the FBI to post a warning to people in the US about the dangers of online fraud.

"'Tis the season for holiday scams," the FBI tweeted. "Protect yourself this #BlackFriday & #CyberMonday. Be aware of scams and report any suspicious financial fraud or internet crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center."

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