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Consumer Diary: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Hacks and Tips

Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

Consumer columnist and West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has more than 20 years of experience writing stories about everyday experiences that anyone could encounter.

By Harlan Levy

Harlan Levy. Courtesy photo

We’ve got a blockbuster weekend ahead for shoppers starting with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, followed by Cyber Monday. In 2022, U.S. Black Friday shoppers spent $65 billion, with the average American spending more than $200 over the following weekend, according to silive.com.

With all that money flowing out, cybercriminals have geared up their efforts to take advantage of the extravaganza.

I’ll describe some scams cropping up specifically for the event ahead. But first, here’s a menu of ingenious shopping “hacks” (tips, trips, tactics) that I’ve gleaned from websites Consumer Affairs, Kiplinger’s, CNET, and other sources:

** Avoid: Don’t buy clothing, beauty, footwear on Black Friday. Better on Cyber Monday – also, laptops, TVs, video game bundles, small home appliances, robotic vacuums, countertop gadgets.

** Postpone toy purchases, winter clothing, bedding, linen: They’ll be marked down more the last two weeks of December. Buy bedding and linen during January’s white sales.

** Check big-box stores: Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s may have deep discounts on tech, clothing. Large holiday gift baskets can be divided into smaller gifts. Also, check dollar stores.

** Review price histories: Visit CamelCamelCamel.com for item prices up to 120 days earlier.

** Close your online cart right before buying: Eager retailers may offer a perk or discount to get you back.

** Check competitor prices, coupons: Visit PriceBlink.

** Compare coupons: Visit CouponCabin.com.

** CNET Coupon page: Find current Walmart discount codes, eBay coupons, Samsung promo codes, more from hundreds of other online stores. Also, get the free CNET Shopping extension to your browser for real-time price comparisons.

** Look for free gift cards, bonus cards, extra rewards.

** Use cash back apps: Shop via cash back apps, earning cash per purchase. First download and install a cash back app, like Rakunen. Create an account. Find cash back offers and discounts from partner retailers. Pick a product, store, or category. Click on it. Go to retailer’s website and order. Small percent of cost added to your account.

** Use browser extensions: They are browser add-ons, like Vetted AI, a Chrome extension which provides product recommendation for online shopping, similar products, product details. For your Safari browser, open the Safari app, tap “Manage Extensions,” then tap “More Extensions” to browse through extensions in the App Store. Tap your choice and “Get” for saving money on shopping, etc.. For example, “Honey” (to the side of Safari) lets you check out coupons available from Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, eBay, Sears, etc.

** Get sales alerts, price drops: Search for PayPal Honey Droplist,  Honey’s price tracking tool. Add an item to Droplist, and get an alert when the price drops below the amount you choose.

** Use browser tools like Cently: It automatically adds coupons and “cash backs.”

** Find best deals: Visit SlickDeals.net, a mobile app and online platform where millions of community member-shoppers report on best internet deals each day.

** Check competitor prices, coupons: Visit PriceBlink.

** Compare coupons: Visit CouponCabin.com.

 ** Avoid delivery delays, cancellations: Buy online and pick up in store.

** Search credit cards offering bonus cash back or extra points for specific stores.

** Review return policies to avoid restocking fees, return shipping fees.

** Don’t click on links from emails you don’t know.

** Track online orders to avoid package theft.

** Visit Amazon Coupons: Search left-hand side for your preferred product category. Click on “Clip Coupon” button under selected product. Click on “Add to Cart.” 30-day returns.

** Amazon Warehouse: Search “Amazon Warehouse” for up to 70% off on returned, damaged, lightly used or refurbished items. Everything is listed as used, even if the product has been unopened. First, pull up the item you want. On the right side of the website see “New & Used,” “Buy Used,” “New & Used Offers,” or just “Used,” plus a price. Always return to the Amazon Warehouse Deals page before starting a different search.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday scams

Barclays Bank reported a 22% increase in money lost to purchase scams during last year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales – goods which never arrive or aren’t as advertised – around $1,200 per customer.

ConsumerAffairs.com’s Trend Micro Threat Alert research team found 66,491 Black Friday shopping-related scam URLs between Oct. 1 and Nov.9, “a nearly 100% increase in just one week.”

** Fake Navy Federal Credit Union scam: In 209 requests on Nov. 4, scammers impersonating the Navy Federal Credit Union emailed recipients to check notifications via a fake log-in portal so they can collect victims’ account information. The emails continue.

** American Express scam: In 154 requests on Nov. 6 and more subsequently, scammers pretending to be American Express are asking customers to verify their accounts to avoid having them suspended.

** Shipping scams: Scammers impersonating the U.S. Postal Service are asking customers to provide delivery addresses and credit card information to process their supposedly postponed parcels.

** Fake delivery emails and texts, fake verification code confirmations, fake order confirmations, fake refund notifications, fake payment information update requests. Do not open fake links from Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or other large retailers, banks, financial outfits to start contact. Contact the real thing to determine what’s fake.

** Fake “money-saving” browser extensions: Always download extensions from reputable sources — the official Chrome Web Store or Safari add-ones store. Check reviews and ratings. Research the developer. Read the permission requests to ensure they’re not asking for more access than needed or access to sensitive information.

Good luck!

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