Rebecca Garland
Rebecca Garland
Business and Education Expert

Black Friday remains one of the most popular shopping days – both in person and online – of the year. According to the 2023 Holiday Shopping Trends and Insights report, last year, customers spent $9.12 billion on their Black Friday shopping. This was surpassed only by Cyber Monday shopping, which topped $11.3 billion. 

Why is Black Friday so popular? According to the PissedConsumer Black Friday survey, 42% of shoppers enjoy Black Friday because the deals are good and true. Almost 15% cited Black Friday as their favorite shopping day of the year. 

Great deals can definitely draw customers in, and retailers know it. Unfortunately, unscrupulous scam artists are also aware of it, too. While you can find excellent bargains , you should always be on the lookout to avoid Black Friday scams. 

Key Insights:

  • Black Friday scams often involve fake coupons or emails. Be sure to check for spam emails carefully.
  • To avoid Black Friday scams, look out for fake ads on social media or other websites. 
  • Gift cards create an easy way for scammers to commit Black Friday fraud. Be sure you’re buying from reputable vendors and reading the fine print. 

Scammers work hard to stay ahead of customers, so it’s important to do your research and understand what you’re up against this holiday season. 

1. Black Friday Email Scams

Fake coupons and vouchers

One of the methods scammers use to trick you out of your money and/or your personal information is through email. For example, they may email you fake coupons. If you have received an email that claims to include heavily discounted coupons, always be cautious. Even better, it is strongly advised not to open it at all, especially if you have not signed up to receive Black Friday email alerts from a specific retailer. It is not by accident that such emails usually end up in your spam/junk folder. 

Fake coupons are designed to look like the real thing, as seen below. This might look like it is the real thing coming from Target but if you watch closely you will notice an odd XYZ URL that is definitely not associated with Target company. 

Black Friday scam

t should be noted that malware can also be downloaded automatically through images embedded in the email. That is why it is important to have up-to-date antivirus software. Also, take preventive measures, which include changing your email setting so that your computer/mobile device does not download images automatically. 

If you do open such an email, avoid clicking on any of the links it contains no matter how much you would like to get an iPhone at 1/3 of its retail price. Finally, if you accidentally click on a link, never enter personal information. Instead, close the browser window. 

Fake delivery notifications

This is another popular Black Friday scam, where the scammer tries to convince you that a package cannot be delivered (email could seem to be sent by UPS, FedEx, or USPS) or that you need to verify a tracking number. There are also instances where consumers were asked to download a shipping label or rearrange delivery by clicking on a link.

This should easily raise red flags if you have not made any purchases yet and are not expecting anything shipped to you. If you are expecting a package, though, know that shipping companies do not email customers for undeliverable packages. 

The following example comes from UPS, although scammers send fake emails from all of the major delivery services. The email notifies the customer that customs have blocked a package and asks them to click a link to resolve the issue. 

False delivery notifications on Black Friday

When they click the link, the scammers will ask for personal information or potentially download malicious software. Thus, if you receive a suspicious notification, it’s best to avoid clicking through an email and simply visit the original retailer’s site instead or type in the URL of the shipping company to investigate. 

This issue, also called “smishing,” is so widespread that the United States Postal Service has posted a warning on its website letting customers know to be on the lookout for deceptive emails or text messages and telling them, “Don’t click the link!”

Refund scams

Scammers may send you an email that says you are eligible for a refund. It could look like it is from a popular online destination, a chain store, or a hotel. To determine whether this email is a fraud or not - unless you have indeed returned a product; otherwise, it is surely a scam - look at the subject line. It should contain specific details of the product or your order. Instead of reading something along the lines of "Wrong Transaction" or "Eligible for Refund", it should be something like "Your X order of Y product is eligible for a partial refund".

Look at the example of a fake PayPal refund message:

Fake Paypal refund message

This example shows a single transaction that allegedly happened on a customer’s PayPal account. The email is designed to alert the customer to suspicious activity. However, it also allows claiming a refund by clicking the button. People who follow the link are redirected to a fake website designed to collect personal information and credit card details.

2. Black Friday Phone and Message Scams

Fake messages

There has been an increasein spam messages sent to cell phones about potential issues. All these mysterious problems require you to click a link for more information, verify details, or claim a refund. Naturally, they all gather your information, download malware of some kind, or scam you out of money somehow.

Below is an example of a fake SMS:Fake Black Friday message

This is not a legitimate text message notification on SG Bonus. This scam is used to collect personal information. A user who follows the link is asked to fill in the fields with personal data in order to confirm their identity and get their SG Bonus. One red flag here is that the stated web resource isn’t using the https web encryption. The other is the style of the message which doesn’t sound correct. Such SMS are fake, just delete them.

Fake products

Don't even bother considering a Black Friday deal that offers you iPads for $40 and new Samsung mobile phones for $50. Unrealistic prices (usually from online electronics stores and high-end designer clothes) are directly related to fraudulent activities. The companies offering such deals are fake online stores that have zero merchandise. The purpose of such Black Friday scams is to get a hold of your credit card information.

For example this X post (formerly Twitter) offers a deal that seems just a bit too good to be true - a big discount on favorite beauty brands by clicking on a link in the ad. The video was posted by a frustrated customer calling out the poster for “fake perfumes you sold to me .”

Fake Black Friday messages on Twitter

Bogus product scams usually occur through social media websites and online ads. 

3. Facebook Farming on Black Friday

This sort of scam involves social media but seems to happen most frequently on Facebook. Scammers set up a post that requires quick action or sharing. Once you interact with it, you have given the scammer access to your Facebook account and helped spread the post to others who will do the same. 

That way, the scam gets even more exposure and the hustler collects money from pay-per-clicks. You, on the other hand, will be left with an empty pocket because when the message has reached enough people, the post or page changes, even to a different product. Such "like-farming" tactics take place year-round. It is a profitable way for scammers to collect or to sell information about the users that interact with a post or to use that information as a means to collect more details (i.e. credit card numbers). 

Below is an example of a Facebook farming survey scam:

Black Friday Facebook farming scam

Scammers created an eye-catching post where Walmart is giving away Black Friday Exclusive Pass. Users are asked to share this post with their friends in order to spread the Black Friday scam more widely. Then they are presented with a survey that collects personal data. Users are also asked to purchase products.

4. Black Friday Scams Employed by Retailers

Retailers aren’t above playing a few games of their own during Black Friday sales. There are several Black Friday scams designed to take advantage of customers in search of a great deal.

One common example is simply bumping up the Recommended Retail Price and then putting the item “on-sale” so that it appears to be heavily discounted. 

Another common strategy is to bring in many low-quality products , which are cheaper to manufacture due to the low quality, so they aren’t much of a deal for customers. Sometimes, companies even bring in cheap or fake items designed to look like the real thing to boost their perceived value when sold as a special promotion. 

Frustrated customers have also complained about deals that seem too good to be true on Black Friday, that perhaps are. Customers put the sale item in their carts online or look for it in stores, only to learn it is suddenly out of stock, or the sale is canceled after the fact and funds returned. A similar issue happens when a website appears to glitch during a purchase, and the heavily discounted item is then sold out once the site starts working again. 

Of course, there are some special promotional items that appear in stores.However, some retailers are known for promising exceptional Black Friday promotions that end up being subpar or entirely absent. For example, in the Fido review, one customer discovered this when they ordered two new phone lines:

I purchased two lines during their black Friday promotions. Only one phone was delivered.

When the customer called, she was told “there was no issue, and they would honor it.” but later they canceled the second phone. The reviewer called the whole business “very shady.”

5. Gift Card Scams

Gift card scams are increasingly popular as they are essentially an easy way for scammers to steal money. A scammer gets ahold of your contact information and reaches out. They then convince you to buy a gift card or several gift cards to either pay for something urgent or to avoid a terrible situation – like a blackmail situation.

Once you buy the gift cards, the scammers will ask you to take a picture of the information and send it with the number and pin on the back to them.. They can then use the money on the card as they like. It’s an easy way for scammers to profit at a customer’s expense as one frustrated eBay customer discovered.

In one of the current eBay reviews, the customer explained that they contacted who they thought was a customer service representative to try to get a refund:

He told me that in order to get my money back I had to purchase 2 EBay cards and a steam customer gift card online for 200.00

 In her post, the customer wrote that then they learned it was a “SCAM” and added: 

Police were involved money was off the cards within minutes… E bay never responded to my case…

How to Avoid Black Friday Scams

Trying not to get sucked into Black Friday scams this year? Here are a few tips to help you avoid common pitfalls.

Avoid clicking links

If you only navigate directly to manufacturer’s websites or shipping websites by typing in the URL, you’ll be able to bypass many of the shady links that scammers rely on.

Buy from trusted vendors

While Black Friday shopping, buy only from retailers you know and trust. Or shop in person so that you can examine the quality of the items before buying. 

Move cautiously

Don’t get caught up in the excitement when you come across a 'too good to be true' Black Friday ad and make mistakes that would have been easy to avoid if you were looking carefully before buying. Scammers count on you rushing to act.

Read reviews and reports

There are customer reviews online that can be tremendously helpful in avoiding Black Friday scams. Entities like the Federal Trade Commission also track scams and help warn customers about shady business practices. If it seems too good to be true, do a bit of research before entering personal or financial information. 

Many scammers are masters of their trade, and fraud seems to be more elaborate and harder to spot every year. Black Friday scams are common, but if you take your time, read reviews, and exercise a bit of caution, you can have a great holiday season and score some terrific deals. 

Legal disclaimers:

  1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.
  2. All or some image copyright belongs to the original owner(s). No copyright infringement intended.