Looking To Do Some Black Friday Shopping? Here’s Some Tips for Avoiding Scams

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

person holding a phone on Black Friday
Photo by CardMapr.nl on Unsplash

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are approaching again, and as always this holiday season is a scammer’s favorite time of year.

Spending on Black Friday was up nearly 30% in 2021 from the prior year, both in-store and online (though e-commerce saw a smaller jump, up about 11%), according to ABC News. And although this past year has been marked by rising costs of nearly everything from food to fuel, shoppers surveyed by PwC indicated they plan to spend about the same amount as last year, with Millennials leading the charge.


On average, people seem to be willing to spend a bit more expect to spend around $1,430 this holiday season, only slightly lower than last year. 57% of people surveyed reported to PwC they plan to do all their shopping online. As with any time of year, a reliance on digital payments or platforms over in-store cash buys comes with the added risk of scams, phishing or deceitful marketing.

With that in mind, dot.LA is here to help you navigate through these digital forums this year with some helpful tips to avoid being scammed.

Buy Now, Pay Later Platforms

two people shaking hands two people shaking hands Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

It’s worth briefly discussing the rise of buy now, pay later (BNPL) tech platforms like Affirm, Klarna or AfterPay that are increasing in popularity with their promises to help lower-income shoppers finance purchases over time.

Typically, a merchant will ink a contract with one of these tech companies to offer their payment option at checkout. The premise is simple – split a larger bill into even installments, usually four payments spread out over several months, to allow customers more time to pay off their bill. It’s better than a line of credit, since it doesn’t require a credit check and most of these sites don’t charge extra fees or interest. An August survey by Consumer Reports found that 28% of Americans paid using BNPL, up from 18% in January.

But sometimes the affordable trade-off comes with a hidden price. Sometimes these are literally hidden fees, buried in the company’s loan terms; so be sure that if you set up auto-pay you have adequate funds, otherwise you may be on the hook for up to $10 per missed payment.

Unlike the seller, BNPL app or even the deliverer, there’s usually no insurance for buyers. Some have reported being on the hook for payments even after their item failed to be delivered. Right now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t give buyers legal recourse if their items aren’t delivered or need to dispute billing issues, but changing that would provide customers more recourse if they’re on the hook for missing merchandise.

The biggest way to avoid BNPL issues is to buy outright. But if that isn’t an option, experts recommend you keep a detailed log of when payments are due, and avoid overextending on loans to steer clear of being sent to collections. Once you’re locked into a payment plan, you can’t change it. So be wary if some big withdrawals are coming through on rent day. And, like with any merchant, if they offer BNPL through a non-recognizable third party, simply pay another way.

Blocked and Reported

Gmail app black laptop computer Photo by Stephen Phillips - Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Identity theft attempts tend to spike during the holidays, so be wary of anyone trying to suss out personal information through social media.

TikTok’s support page notes it will never ask users for their account details. Snapchat also encourages users to never give out their personal information.

If you’re a user of either app and see messages asking for personal details, immediately report them to the app for review. Blocking the user can’t hurt either. To further limit the likelihood of scammers sliding into your DMs, Snapchat recommends users only friend people they know in real life. This is harder on TikTok; most users don’t know the people they follow personally, so on that app it’s prudent to be extra wary of new connections.

Two-Factor Authentication

two-factor authentication scam

Microsoft

Photo by Ed Hardie on Unsplash

Definitely turn this setting on across all accounts. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is one safeguard against being hacked. It can be found in nearly every app’s settings; and works by sending a passcode to your phone or email that grants access to your account after inputting a password.


2FA isn’t foolproof, however. If someone hacks an account they can change the 2FA number to another one. But it’s a useful extra layer of security and many apps recommend you turn it on.

Also, when shopping online, use a private secure network if possible, and do so on a computer with an antivirus software installed. Public networks are much less likely to have safeguards to deter hackers, though if you’re forced to use one, try installing a VPN (like one of these) which can provide additional security.

Password Managers

lock on keyboard

lock on keyboard

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Another key way to avoid being hacked is to use a password manager. While it might seem risky to have all your passwords aggregated on one app, it’s also a useful way to ensure all your accounts have passwords long and random enough for even the most astute AI to take awhile to hack.

There’s a few decent paid apps out there doing this. 1Password is a good one (not sponsored, I just enjoy their interface), mainly because it can sync with an iPhone’s biometric data sensor to scan your face and auto-fill passwords on certain sites after you input your master password. To be fair, no platform is completely immune to hacks. But using a random password generator is much more secure than each password being a slight variation of the other for memory’s sake.

Avoid Phishing

Mail app on phone blue and white logo guessing game Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Phishing scams, or scams that bait users into clicking a fraudulent link or attachment, are all too common during the holidays. Often the target is to surreptitiously install malicious software on your device to steal data.

Be wary of any link sent to you as well. Especially if it masquerades as something useful, like a package tracking link. When ordering gifts this season, make a detailed list of the sites you bought them from and which carrier the site says they use when shipped, and only use this site when looking for updates. Don’t, for example, assume that a text claiming to be from UPS with a package update is real.

The same goes for advertisements. On TikTok in particular fake ads are all the rage and it’s too easy to click something that looks interesting without thinking. To be extra certain you’re avoiding phishing through ads, if you see an intriguing product on social media, simply go to the brand’s website and buy there, instead of being routed through the link.

Another red flag to be aware of is if a merchant requests alternative payments like cryptocurrency, a wire transfer or gift cards – this is almost a sure sign they’re conducting illegal business and looking to obfuscate their activity.

Also, as with any type of malfeasance, the old adage of “see something, say something” applies to online scamming.

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

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Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

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Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

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A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

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A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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