Police and trading standards officers in Staffordshire and Cheshire are warning shoppers to stay safe and think before they buy this Black Friday.
Black Friday (29 November) is expected to see shoppers spend around £7 billion, much of which will be online.
It’s the busiest shopping day of the year, when many retailers run special promotions and huge discounts on high demand products for 24 hours, to get people buying presents for Christmas.
But Brandon Cook, Trading Standards Manager at Staffordshire County Council, is urging people not to get caught up in the hype.
He said: "Not everything that appears to be a bargain on Black Friday is actually a bargain.
"Somethings are not necessarily going to be much cheaper than you could have bought them somewhere else.
"Make a plan of what you want to get on Black Friday, and do a bit of background research on prices.
"If you see something that you never intended to buy but it looks cheap, it is not really a bargain.
"Have a think about whether it is something you really want, or if you are just being swept along in a wave.
"At the end of the day it is a marketing ploy by businesses to sell lots of goods and make more money."
Trading Standards Manager at Staffordshire County Council Brandon Cook
Meanwhile police say Black Friday and Cyber Monday (December 1) are the most opportune time for online fraudsters.
They are warning shoppers to make sure websites are authentic and the payment page is secure, and the address starts with https (the s is for secure). There should also be a padlock in the address bar.
Officers are also reminding people not to pay for anything by transferring money directly to people or companies they don’t know, and that the safest way to pay for anything online is by credit card.
Detective Sergeant David MacFarlane is the cyber strategy lead for Cheshire Police.
He said: “Fraudsters see these events as an opportunity to take advantage of people and don’t care about the consequences their actions may cause for the victim.
“Creating strong passwords for yourself and always updating anti-virus software are the two easiest ways to keep you safe, but also using secure Wi-Fi networks when making payments and buying from official sites will also help keep people safe from fraudsters.”
Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “International gangs of counterfeiters and pirates are out looking for your hard-earned cash and will want to give you nothing in return.
“Shopping extravaganzas are irresistible for “fakers” and they know we may be very likely to take a chance. They also know that they can use a variety of channels to get to us. The internet is of a preferred means as it gives them direct access.
“The anonymity the internet offers is such an advantage to criminals. They can operate easily behind sophisticated looking sales sites, using fake trademarks, brands and emblems and even bogus certification labels to entice shoppers into thinking they are buying genuine, safe, products.
“The reality is consumers can often end up with nothing more that cheap tat and increasingly dangerous goods. We also need to be aware that 25 per cent of UK consumers have been attacked during these sales periods and when given access to our data, the criminals will then use our money to fund other menacing crimes, such as drug trafficking, money laundering and child exploitation.”
The Force’s cyber team has created the 5Cs guide to online safety, five simple steps to improve online safety and security, which can be found on the Constabulary website at https://www.cheshire.police.
There is also a reminder for shoppers to check their rights when it comes to returning goods bought in the run up to Christmas.
"Within 30 days your consumer rights are that is it if it is faulty you are automatically entitled to a refund.
"It is worth asking retailers for a gift receipt, or seeing if they have different rules around Christmas, but make sure you see something in writing.
"If you are in a shop, ask them to write on your receipt about what opportunity you have to change something or get a refund after Christmas."
People with concerns about shopping online should visit Citizens Advice on www.citizensadvice.org.uk or telephone Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 04 05 06.
Shoppers can also get free expert advice from Get Safe Online (www.getsafeonline.org) which is a unique resource providing practical advice on how to protect yourself, your computers and mobile devices plus lots more, or from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) at https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/