Business expert warns shoppers over festive period scams

Some online 'offers' can often be way too good to be true. Picture: contributed
Some online 'offers' can often be way too good to be true. Picture: contributed
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SHOPPERS are being urged to stay vigilant online following a spate of scams ­offering a chance for ‘lucky’ winners to land hoax vouchers with well-known UK supermarkets.

Cyber experts at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) have uncovered a new scam promising Facebook ­users the chance to win one of 1000 vouchers worth £150 at Morrisons.

In just 10 hours, the post had received more than 2000 shares and comments, each by users unwittingly hoping to ease the festive grocery bill by simply commenting ‘Me’ on the post in order to qualify for a voucher.

Users had been served a link by a chat-bot – which led to a questionnaire webpage registered in the Bahamas – but the entire ‘offer’ was a scam.

Gerry Grant, chief ethical hacker with Curious Frank, a division of the SBRC, said: “There is no doubting that many of us feel the pinch over the Christmas and New Year, perhaps more than at any ­other time of the year. Criminal ­hackers and fraudsters are very aware of this. They know that we are simply more disposed to fall for a scam we otherwise wouldn’t.

“While we have investigated this one example by ­taking special precautions, we of course urge the public not to follow suit – and instead apply extra scrutiny and scepticism when coming across all online ­competitions and offers.

“Unless you are certain that it belongs to the official page of that business or organisation, avoid it. It’s simply not worth the risk of leaving your personal data exposed.”

While this competition adopts the Morrisons branding, the SBRC has uncovered ­further evidence that suggests the same fraudsters will be using other supermarkets as a guise – as well as other platforms, including WhatsApp, to further trick users.

The SBRC is encouraging the public to heed precautions.

Firstly, check the web address – are you sure you are on the genuine website?

If you have clicked through to a page, make sure you can see ‘https://’ at the start of the address bar or a padlock icon while another indicator that some secure websites use this to turn the address bar green.

Users should also check the page that is sharing any vouchers. Does it look genuine? Is it posting other content from that supermarket i.e Christmas recipes or discounts? If not it may not be the real deal. Check when the page started making posts, it may well have been created for scam purposes.

Also, look out for the blue tick – Facebook and Twitter have a blue tick scheme for verified accounts. This is a handy way to verify that a page is real.

Finally, think – is the offer simply too good to be true? Would a supermarket really issue 1000 £150 vouchers?