POLICE are warning Cheshire residents of the increased risk when seeking Black Friday bargains this year.

With the England lockdown lasting until early December, this year's pre-Christmas spending spree on Black Friday (November 27) and Cyber Monday (November 30) will be conducted online.

Cheshire Constabulary is therefore warning there will be even more online shoppers who face the risk of being conned by fraudsters.

Action Fraud has reported that, during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale events last year (November 25-December 8), over £3 million was lost to criminals.

It is an active time for scams such as realistic-looking phishing emails, posts that advertise offers that are too good to be true, fraudulent shopping websites and fake goods, all of which are concerns that shoppers need to be aware of.

Cheshire Police has simple advice to help keep people safe online:

  • Bargain hunters can keep themselves safe online by making sure shopping websites are authentic and the payment page is secure. They can do this by checking that all addresses starts with https (the s is for secure). There should also be a padlock in the address bar, and it's important to also make sure that the website address you have typed in has been entered correctly and is showing the correct address in the address bar.
  • Don’t pay for anything by transferring money directly to people or companies you don’t know, however desperate you are to buy. The safest way to pay for anything online is by credit card.
  • Always log out when you have finished your payment. Simply closing the page may not end your session.

Detective Constable Tracy Earley is an officer on the Cyber team for Cheshire Police.

She said: “If something seems too much of a bargain this Black Friday, or on Cyber Monday where deals only apply online, then it probably is. Follow your instincts and don’t make any rush purchases.

"Fraudsters see these events as an opportunity to take advantage of people and don’t care about the consequences their actions may cause for the victim.

“Creating strong passwords for yourself and always updating anti-virus software are the two easiest ways to keep you safe, but also using secure Wi-Fi networks when making payments and buying from official sites will help keep people safe from fraudsters, or using your 3G 4G 5G data or secure home Wi-Fi.

"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.”

David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, added: “With online crime accounting for over half of all crimes committed each day, it is important for people to follow expert guidance to keep them safe online.

"As most of us increase our use of technology, this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the criminal fraternity who continue to adapt how they operate so they can use this lucrative accessibility to prey on vulnerable members of society. I would urge all Cheshire residents to review their online footprint to ensure they are as secure as possible.”

The Force’s cyber team has created the 5Cs guide to online safety, five simple steps to improve online safety and security, which can be found on the Constabulary website at https://www.cheshire.police.uk/police-forces/cheshire-constabulary/areas/cheshire/campaigns/campaigns/2019/five-cs/

Shoppers can also get free expert advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) at https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/