Black Friday is here and for most people it's an opportunity to snap up some bargains in time for Christmas.
But there's a stark warning for those planning to log on to the internet tomorrow and spend some of their hard earned money.
Record numbers of people will be shopping online this Friday and cyber-crime is likely to be rife. Cyber criminals are expected to steal more than £18.5million over the period, according to statistics released by comparethemarket.com
Their methods include hacking into devices using insecure WiFi networks, phishing emails and infected websites.
The National Cyber Skills Centre in Malvern is a focal point for cyber activity and was set up as the UK’s only e-skills accredited centre. Already outperforming other counties by having the strongest growth in securing high-level workforce skills, Malvern Hills is putting Worcestershire on the map as world-leaders in cyber, IT and technology – a reputation which continues to grow.
Stephen Wright, General Manager of the National Cyber Skills Centre, said: "Black Friday has become Britain's biggest shopping day.
"Unfortunately, it means consumers are often targeted by criminals but there are things that you can do to prevent online fraud.
"Much of the advice we give to businesses attending courses at the National Cyber Skills Centre also applies in the personal lives of their employees.
"As we all get more connected there is a blurring of our lives between home, commuting and work."
Dr Ken Pollock, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economy and Infrastructure, said: “We aim to be the ‘go-to’ county for businesses looking for cyber support and we are already leading the way at the National Cyber Skills Centre.
"The work being done at the Cyber Skills Centre is helping businesses and individuals in the County to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. We all need to be extra vigilant on Black Friday when spending money online."
Top tips on how to stay safe online this year:
- Be aware of fake websites
Websites can easily be created and made to look real. Make sure you check the URL as it may look like a genuine retailer and check it starts with 'https' and look for the green secure padlock to the left of the web address in the browser. Domains that end in '.net' or '.org' is rarely an actual shopping website.
- Use your credit card when buying online
Credit cards offer consumers protection if things go wrong with a purchase. The items must have cost more than £100. Debit cards don’t usually provide protection. Be wary if asked to make a bank transfer instead of using your card.
- Look out for 'phishing emails'
Phishing emails are already a common occurrence but will be rife on Black Friday. They appear to come from a trusted source e.g. a bank or Apple. They contain links which when clicked on will download malicious software onto your computer. Check the email address and don't click on any links on the email.
- Don't give too much away about yourself
Be aware of giving away too much information about yourself on the phone, on-line or in person. Only share what is reasonable for what it is to be used for, and be sure the person asking is really who they say they are.
- Don't overshare on social media
Think carefully about oversharing on social media and also take a look at the privacy policies and make sure only those closely connected to you can see your posts. If the world knows you are out shopping all day or on your way to a holiday then someone could take advantage of your home being empty.
- Deals that sound too good to be true
Remember that as in the real world, if a deal sounds too good to be true it most likely is not.