Holidays are happy seasons for shoppers and scammers alike. The results from our new study are a warning to all online shopping enthusiasts in the US: scammers become extra active before and during Black Friday and other similar holidays. In fact, citizens in some US states are more likely to experience a cyberattack than others.
Personal data is more vulnerable during Black Friday
On Black Friday alone, people in the US spent around $7B more than on any other day of 2020. As the demand grows, so does the opportunity for criminals to make money out of shoppers. People are easily persuaded by low prices and over-the-top incentives during sale-sprees like Black Friday (Get a NEW TABLET for FREE).
Most common e-commerce attacks include tech support scams as well as fake and malware ads. However, the dangers go as far as credit card theft and major hacking attacks on e-commerce sites.
Before Black Friday this year, there was an increase in cyberattacks on websites worldwide. The reason is simple: criminal hacking attacks are the leading cause of data breaches (45%). Information from these breaches can later be used to carry out more personal attacks like phishing attempts through phone calls and emails.
The number of websites that got attacked over 50 times a day by hackers grew by 10% in the first two weeks of November compared to October. Moreover, attacks spiked by 30% on Singles day just before Black Friday this year (data from the Security Center by SonicWall).
Previous years tell a similar story – Checkpoint’s data shows a rise in cybercriminal activity during Black Friday. In 2020, phishing emails have doubled in November alone. With how this year’s November has already started, the situation is unlikely to be any better than last year.
Cybercrime rates are steadily rising every year
We put more and more of our data out in the digital world. This exposes us to online threats, and digital safety only gets increasingly more difficult to achieve with just awareness and good internet hygiene practices.
COVID-19 only made the situation worse. The FBI says that the 2020 pandemic allowed cybercriminals to take advantage of the situation and our dependence on technology. Phishing, spoofing, and extortion cases skyrocketed during this period. The criminals targeted people’s fears and desperation. Among many cases, this included everyone from medical workers searching for personal protective equipment to families looking for information about stimulus checks to help pay their bills.
According to several FBI internet crime reports (2018 – present), 2020 marks the year with the most cybercrime complaints in the US. It recorded a total of 538K cybercrime complaints (10.5K victims per state) or around 1.5K victims per day.
Over the three year period 1.2M of US citizens (on average, 1 in 300 US citizens) fell victim to at least a single cybercrime. This resulted in a total of $9.2B in financial losses.
The US states that should look out for cyberattacks the most
When it comes to safe online shopping, citizens in the following states should remain extra vigilant during Black Friday and other holiday periods.
Nevada tops the list of the states with the highest number of cybercrime victims per 100K citizens (893 victims per 100K) with a rate almost three times higher than the entire US average. This means that 1 out of 100 Nevadians became a victim of cybercrime over the past three years. Similar cybercrime cases can be seen in the District of Columbia (711 victims per 100K), and Alaska (699 victims per 100 K) as well.
No. of victims per 100k population (2018-present)
Compared to the US average
2.5 times higher
District of Columbia
2 times higher
1.9 times higher
1.6 times higher
1.5 times higher
1.5 times higher
1.4 times higher
1.3 times higher
1.3 times higher
1.2 times higher
For the individual, the average financial loss per cybercrime victim in the US was close to $6.9K. Victims in North Dakota paid the most ($19.1K), followed by Ohio ($17.4K) and New York ($11K). To put it into perspective, people who became victims of cybercrimes had to work two months on average to pay off their losses.
People in North Dakota sustained the biggest financial losses out of all states. Victims there had to work for almost 5 months to pay off criminals.
Salary after tax, yearly
Average loss per victim (2018-present)
No. of months to pay off cybercriminals
% of yearly salary
Six tips to avoid losses when shopping online during the holidays
Black Friday is great, but it comes with its own dangers. If you want to stay safe, use the following six tips when shopping online:
- If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Even Black Friday offers can seem too tempting. If you see a deal that you can’t believe, it’s likely because it isn’t real. Double-check the vendor on websites like urlvoid.com to make sure it’s legit.
- Use password managers. They help you keep your online store, email, and payment service passwords secure under a single master account. Password managers will also usually inform you if any password is leaked and needs to be changed.
- Enable two-factor authentication. This way, hackers won’t be able to access your accounts or personal information if they bypass your password protection.
- Use a VPN, antivirus, and firewalls. Security and privacy tools will keep your devices safe from malware and other cyberattacks that might target your personal well-being.
- Use disposable virtual credit cards for your online payments. If hackers leak a disposable card’s information that you’re using for your Black Friday shopping spree, they won’t be able to reach your personal finances.
- Avoid links that are shortened or have typos. Usually, those lead to phishing or fake malware websites. This is especially common during Black Friday as hackers look to scam people with ridiculous offers.
Methodology and sources
This study used open-source Federal Bureau of Investigation information. The 2018 – present Internet crime report data was aggregated and analyzed according to the number of cybercrime victims per 100,000 people in each state, personal financial losses in monthly salaries , as well as the overall financial losses, and victim count by state.
The rest of the data was collected from:
- United States Census Bureau for e-commerce and population numbers.
- DQYDJ data for monthly salary before tax, that was recalculated to after tax value using the Salary After Tax calculator.
- Statista for the 2020 Black Friday spendings.
- Checkpoint’s phishing emails double in November, November shopping, and SonicWall for increasing cybercrime rates.
- And IT governance for data breach causes.