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‘Reformed’ Nigerian scammer warns about 3 common Black Friday scams

BOSTON — Black Friday is only days away and consumer advocates say this is when online scams really ramp up.

Massachusetts shoppers lost more than $226 million to internet scams in 2022, according to a study from Social Catfish, a company that says it prevents scams using reverse search technology.

More than 7,800 Massachusetts residents were duped online last year, with each victim averaging $28,981 in losses, Social Catfish said. The company said the Bay State ranked 12th in the country for total losses.

Christopher Maxwell, a self-described “reformed scammer” living in Nigeria, is working with Social Catfish to warn consumers this holiday shopping season.

“I look for your trust. I want my victim to trust me,” Maxwell said.

BEWARE OF FAKE STORES

Maxwell said scammers will post incredible deals on social media and even create imitation websites that look like an authentic company’s home page. But any gifts purchased on these sites will never arrive.

“You should not look for Black Friday products on sites or apps that you do not trust. It’s a good idea to do it on a supplier that you trust,” Maxwell said.

To protect yourself, Social Catfish says triple-check the URL’s spelling. Fake sites are often just one letter or a symbol off.

LOOK OUT OF BOGUS GIFT CARDS

Social Catfish says online resale sites are full of scammers selling gift cards that arrive with no balance. The company said to avoid this, you can perform a reverse search to verify the seller’s identity.

AVOID PHONY SHIPPING NOTIFICATIONS

Scammers will often send out a bad “tracking link” that is actually a phishing link used for identity theft. Social Catfish recommends only tracking packages on the official websites of UPS, U.S. Postal Service, and FedEx.

Maxwell says it’s important for consumers to slow down and think twice if you see a discount or sale that feels too good to be true.

“They want you to be greedy. They want you to see it as a big opportunity and they want you to grab it. It’s an opportunity for them to discover you so you just have to be very careful,” Maxwell said.

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