Black Friday and Cyber Monday may offer bargains galore, but make sure you stay safe from fraudsters when you shop online.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us. It’s the busiest pre-Christmas shopping time of the year, conveniently following many people’s final payday before Christmas.

Retail analysts tell us that UK households spent a whopping £5.8bn over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend in 2016, and it is projected that 2017 will be an even bigger event.

In a survey carried out by price comparison website, GoCompare, 31% of households said they were planning to open their wallets this weekend, of which 49% reported that they would be shopping online.

While there are certainly bargains to be snapped up, this weekend also presents rich pickings for cyber criminals, who prey on the less savvy shopper.

Common tricks include scam emails, bogus ads on social media and fake retail sites that con shoppers into entering their card details. Once the conmen have gathered this information, they can then use the victim’s card details to make expensive purchases of their own, draining their target’s bank account.

According to figures released by fraud prevention group, Financial Fraud Action (FFA), almost one-third of online shoppers confess that they are more likely to take a financial risk, including shopping on an unsecure website, if the seller offers a deal they can’t refuse. This means that this weekend, some 15 million online shoppers could be putting themselves at risk of financial fraud.

But help is at hand. Here are our Top Tips to avoid being duped:

• Steer clear of websites you are unfamiliar with. If you are unsure of the authenticity of a site, hover your cursor over the URL before you click on it. This will reveal the actual domain you are about to be directed to

• There should not be anything between the domain name and the top level domain. A word between the domain and top level domain tells you you’re being directed to a fake website that looks identical to the legitimate one

For example:

www.stores.ebay.co.uk is REAL
www.ebay.stores.co.uk is FAKE

• Always look for a security padlock icon at the bottom of the page. This means the site is authenticated and therefore secure

• Make sure the site has ‘https’ – the ‘s’ means the site is secure

• Beware of phishing emails. Phishing messages are an increasingly common scam. They may look like they are from familiar retailers but they often aren’t. Never click on links in unsolicited emails

• Keep your passwords safe. Don’t write them down or save them on your computer. Make sure passwords are strong and change them often. Avoid using obvious ones such as ‘password’, your pet’s name or ones that include your date of birth