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How to Protect Your Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping

Don’t let the most wonderful time of the year turn into a holiday crisis. Here’s help to shop securely online this holiday season.

On your mark … get set … shop!

The National Retail Federation projects another record-setting year for holiday shopping with three to four percent growth over 2022 to between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion total in 2023: “Online shopping has been one of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior from the COVID-19 pandemic. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, are expected to increase between seven percent and nine percent to a total of between $273.7 billion and $278.8 billion. That figure is up from $255.8 billion last year.”

And jumping right to the opportunities available, this Black Friday website has links to most of the popular deals to browse.

McKinsey’s headline comment on this year’s holiday shopping was that, “It started early and will end late.”

By that they mean: “Across the United States, consumers are continuing to spend, but they’re not opening their wallets too wide. Retailers that offer personalized promotions, same-day delivery, and 'buy now, pay later' plans are more likely to capture cautious consumers’ holiday spending.”

Looking for something more cutting edge? There are even people using ChatGPT to assist holiday shopping: “While 90 percent of shoppers consider prices as a determining factor in purchasing gifts for friends, family, co-workers and community acquaintances, time has been the precipitating factor is our last-minute rush to bring holiday cheer.

“We are also utilizing online shopping (60 percent) at a higher rate than in-store purchasing (54 percent).

“But the most surprising information that has been released is a new survey that shows that millennials are using artificial intelligence to do their holiday shopping for them.

“Research has discovered that digital tools such as ChatGPT are being used to help remove the guesswork out of holiday gift-giving.”


Which brings us to the main point of this annual blog post on how we can shop safely online — 2023 style. Here are a few helpful articles to highlight with some best practices to consider:

The Hill: Why scammers love gift cards and what to watch out for ahead of Black Friday

“Whether it’s a phone call from someone claiming to work for the government or a someone selling an item online, if they ask for gift cards as payment it’s likely a scam, according to the FBI. ...

The following are warning signs, according to the BBB:
  • Online vendors, businesses or governmental bodies asking for payment via gift card
  • High-pressure calls alleging legal issues or overdue tax payments
  • Requests for payment with an unrelated gift card for any service or item
  • Anyone who asks for a gift card number or PIN over the phone or online
  • Promises of check reimbursement
  • Messages that appear to be from a work superior requesting gift card purchases” Protect yourself from Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams

“Three common scams to avoid:

1) Fake stores: Scammers use these fake stores to advertise great deals on social media. When you click on the link it takes you to a look-a-like website of a major brand. However, the gifts you order will never arrive.

How do you avoid this scam? Make sure you check the spelling of the URL. Fake sites often have one letter that is off.

2) Fake Gift Cards: Scammers like to watch sites that sell gift cards. They look for opportunities to steal your financial information and then send you gift cards with no balance.

How do you avoid this scam? Perform a reverse search to confirm the seller is legitimate.

3) Fake Shipping Notifications: Because of all the packages that get delivered these days many scammers will send emails or texts of delivery updates with tracking links. These links are used for identity theft.

How do you avoid this scam? Only track packages on the official UPS, USPS, or FedEx website.”

NBC: Avoid scammers during Black Friday Sales
  • "First, don’t click the link – go to the source. In this case, look at your account directly from Amazon’s app or enter their website into your browser. 
  • Next, research it. Check out the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker website — you can find the latest scams. 
  • Last, report it. If you’re shopping on Amazon, they have a special portal to report false emails, or you can go right to the government at 


For those who want to look back a bit and ponder more protections, here are previous years' versions on this topic — going back more than a decade. Most of the advice is still relevant today.

2022: Holiday Shopping Online: Safety on Black Friday, Cyber Monday
2020: COVID-19 Turning Black Friday into ‘Cyber November’
2011: Cyber Monday: Are You Shopping From Work?


Over the past few months, I have seen a dramatic increase in texts with fraudulent links. Many texts say my phone is infected with malware or a subscription has run out or a payment is overdue.

Common sense says these things not only are untrue, but would not be sent to me by an unknown phone number with a link to click to fix things quickly.

So if you suspect that any of these texts may be legit, contact the company yourself on a separate channel — but don’t click on that link that was unsolicited.

Happy holiday shopping.
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.