Time for caution as online fraud is expected to be on the rise during White Friday-related promtions. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dubai: A US-based cybersecurity firm has warned UAE shoppers to take extra precautions this week as fake discounts and phishing attacks are expected to soar online, due to scammers taking advantage of White Friday.

White Friday is the Middle Eastern equivalent of Black Friday in the United States. The shopping event takes place at the end of November, and offers customers with sales, deals, and discounts on a number of products.

In a report released on Sunday, cybersecurity and compliance firm Proofpoint released research identifying that 13 of the top 20 online retailers in the UAE (65 percent) are susceptible to cybercriminals copying their identity, which increases the risk of email fraud for their customers. The main reason for their vulnerability was attributed to these UAE retailers not having a published DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) record.

“Despite this, only 15 percent of leading retailers – or 3 out of the top 20 – have implemented the strictest and recommended level of DMARC protection, which actively blocks fraudulent emails from reaching their intended target,” according to the report.


In addition, the research highlighted that 85 percent of leading online retailers are not proactively blocking fraudulent emails, leaving their customers in the UAE vulnerable to email fraud.

Emile Abou Saleh, Regional Director, Middle East and Africa for Proofpoint, said: “Retailers should prioritise protecting themselves and their customers by implementing simple, yet effective email authentication best practices. Ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers must remain vigilant and check the validity of all emails, especially at a time when their attention is more likely to be focused on grabbing the best deals.

“With greater numbers of people now online, organisations in all sectors should deploy authentication protocols, such as DMARC, to bolster their email fraud defences and protect customers and businesses.”

Cybercriminals regularly use the method of domain spoofing to pose as well-known brands, by sending an email from a supposedly legitimate sender address. These emails are designed to trick people into clicking on links or sharing personal details which can then be used to steal money or identities and it can be almost impossible for an ordinary Internet user to identify a fake sender from a real one. Having a DMARC policy in place, protects employees, customers, and partners from cybercriminals looking to impersonate a trusted domain.

In 2020, online shopping has grabbed an ever-increasing market share, given the changing dynamics of retail in the COVID-19 era. According to Kearney Middle East, the e-commerce sector in the GCC is expected to reach $50bn by 2025, and the current pandemic has been the main driver for this growth. With Black Friday (November 27) and Cyber Monday (November 30) approaching, online retail traffic is expected to surge to an annual high, as consumers search the internet for the hottest deals.

A recent study published by advertising platform Criteo also indicated that retail traffic and sales in the Middle East and Africa are set to peak during the upcoming White Friday sales. White Friday last year saw an average of 336 per cent increase in sales and a 170 per cent increase in traffic. Similar trends are expected this year, with e-commerce expected to perform stronger as consumers move to online shopping, in the wake of COVID-19.

The Criteo study of 800 consumers in the UAE revealed that four out of ten shoppers plan to buy more products online this year, including toys and gaming items, cultural goods, and beauty products. In addition, three out of ten UAE shoppers plan to buy more luxury brands, home goods, groceries, apparel/accessories, household products and consumer electronics online.