Online shopping has seen a rise of users in the past few months, with over 8.1 million households ordering various items through online retailers. The surge in online shopping will likely increase with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales coming up this week. Originally a post-Thanksgiving US event, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales became a major online retail event which is now popular around other parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, and even Asia. Such a huge discount event means massive savings on purchases, in turn, scammers could take this opportunity to take advantage of customers transacting online. In just 2020 alone, there have been more than 12,000 reports on online shopping scams, with almost $7 million reported loss through scams and fraud.
These massive sale events attract a considerably large number of consumers both online and in physical stores because the duration of discount offers are limited. As safety protocols are still in place; however, we could expect more users to access Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales online, a prime time for online criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Because of this threat it is important to stay vigilant while online shopping. “Cybercriminals see major sales such as Click Frenzy and Black Friday as a goldmine of opportunity to get consumers to hand over their personal or financial information and have a number of tricks up their sleeves to do so,” says Tim Falinski, Trend Micro Managing Director of Consumer (APAC).
Scammers create fake websites and send phishing emails or text messages which contains fraudulent links in an attempt to steal personal information and banking details. They often “mimic a legitimate organisation and will try to entice the recipient into clicking a URL link.” Falinski explains. Upcoming sales events is an opportune time to do this as many consumers will be receiving emails advertising bargains.
There could be different types of scams this coming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale events, so always be mindful of both similar and sophisticated frauds. Keep these best practices in mind to have a peaceful and safe online shopping experience:
- Do proper research to make sure the offer is legitimate. If possible, stick to well-known brands or stores and read the reviews from shops you are intending to buy from. Trusted websites and online stores use a URL beginning with https, with the ‘s’ signifying it is secure. You should also refrain from clicking offers that sound too good to be true — they probably are.
- Use secure third-party payment methods. It’s advisable to pay using methods PayPal, Bpay, or your credit card. Refrain from pay for purchases using direct bank deposits, money transfers, or other methods such as Bitcoin to ensure your payment security. Likewise, you should use a secure feature like Pay Guard that will allow you to access your banking or shopping sites securely thru your default browser. Always keep an eye on your bank transaction records to avoid any unauthorised transactions, and if you do find one, you should contact your bank immediately.
- Do not click links you get from text or emails. You can easily avoid phishing scams by taking your time to click on a link in your text or emails, especially from unknown sources. If you clicked through, make sure that the site you clicked is legitimate. If it looks like a fake or unsecured website; it probably is.
- Use a VPN when shopping online. Using a virtual private network (VPN) while you shop online will keep your anonymity while browsing the internet.
- Do not overshare your personal information. Phishing emails and sites may ask for your personal information (such as name, address or contact information), which they may use for their malicious activities. Do not give your personal information online, particularly if it is not related to your shopping experience.
- Install antivirus software to your devices. Your devices should have antivirus software installed before you use it for purchasing anything online. Antivirus software serves as your device’s defence against malware, cyberattacks, and identity theft.
Ensure that you keep these best practices in mind in preparation for the incoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping craze to avoid getting scammed. In case of online scams or other cyber-related crimes, report it to Scamwatch.