Everyone goes on a shopping spree every now and then, spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on almost anything. Nowadays, shopping has become so much easier thanks to online markets. This year, particularly in the holidays, shopping is expected to reach a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. However, when you shop online during these Jolly times, you should know where your money is going.
Unfortunately, it’s not only retailers who want your money. Malicious online entities (scammers and hackers) also take advantage of this period to hack into your accounts and make off with your cash or your identity. How do they do that? What online shopping scams you need to be aware of in 2020? Find out below.
You’re Not the One Shopping, Hackers Are
In today’s article, I’m going to be shedding some light on the top scams any online user may come across while shopping on the web. There are ways to do that, and it does require skills to pull it off and perfect it. However, before we head to that part, you should know what an online scam looks like.
Therefore, I gathered a few incidents that occurred in the past couple of years so that you can get an idea about what I’ll be covering later on. Take a look:
- Macy’s: Hackers embedded an unauthorized computer code to two pages on macys.com, allowing them grab customer information at the checkout page and the wallet page.
- Adidas: The company addressed that an unauthorized party had gained access to customer data. This includes contact information such as email addresses, location, as well as login information, mainly usernames, and passwords. The incident occurred on the US version of “adidas.com.”
- British Airways: This was a big hit for the British Airways as 380,000 booking transactions had been stolen, including bank card numbers, expiry dates, and CVV codes. The breached took place during the month of September.
- TicketMaster: More than 30,000 customers’ data was accessed due to a malicious hack on a third-party solution.
- BestBuy: The online shopping website took a big hit. A number of Best Buy customers had their payment information compromised.
These are a few examples of the breaches that had occurred in the past. 2020 will be no different, that’s why I’m going to show you next what kind of online scams you should look out for in the upcoming year. That way, you’ll have an idea about how you can protect your privacy.
Online Shopping Scams You Should Look Out For in 2020
Shopping online may be fun, but it won’t stay that way if your private information falls into the wrong hands. Once a hacker gets ahold of your credit card information, your username, and password, or any other data, they can shop at your expense.
According to Nevada Attorney Generals Office:
“Scammers are looking to take advantage of your charitable giving, steal your personal information through clone websites, and even come to your doorstep to swipe delivered packages.”
In my opinion, education is your best line of defense. This is probably the main reason why I came up with this guide in the first place. You should know what threats you’re facing or will be facing in the near future. 2020 isn’t just a new year; it’s an upgrade for what’s in the past in terms of the internet. So, with that said, let me show you what kind of scams you might run as 2020 grows nearer:
I kicked it off with this one as it’s the most common trick most of you fall for. Fake websites might sometimes be too convincing you won’t even know you’re using one. They can be designed however the host wishes to design them.
This is the main problem as they will look like a reputable e-shop, but in reality, there’s a scam. In most cases, such hackers leverage seasonal shopping. So, if there’s a Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas, stay alert, these websites are lurking around.
In the past, the spelling on the website might have helped us differentiate. But now, using online dictionaries and translators, hackers manage to avoid (some) grammar and spelling errors.
There’s also homograph attacks, which is a malicious scam that deceives computer users about what remote system they are communicating. The hacker uses different characters that look alike to make you think you’re visiting the website you desire.
The image above represents how the fake apple website would look like. In other words, the hacker registers domains that are similar to the originals but use visually ambiguous characters. Also, you should look out for fake websites that have their own certificates. I know that everybody trusts the “https” certificate, but still, be careful.
Furthermore, make sure you check if the discounts on the page are reasonable. For example, on this website (was posing as Walmart), an iPhone X costs $499, which is unbelievable. So, we definitely know that it’s not legit.
A fake website might use the logo, website design pattern, and text of the original brand, which leads to drastic consequences if you engage. 37% of Americans admit that they don’t check a retailer’s website for authenticity. They just click on whatever link that pops up if it says the right things to grab their attention. This is one habit you should get rid of as soon as possible.
Wherever you go, whatever device you’re using, ads are part of your everyday browsing life. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a website, using an app, or social media, ads are present, and you have to deal with it. Now, how you deal with it is the thing that matters here.
Ad scams are a way to lure people in and navigate them all the way until they submit their personal information. There’s no specific genre to these scams; it could be anything from making money and Black Friday to exchanging cryptocurrency.
Twitter was a victim of such scams. However, as it was saturated, hackers started targeting platforms such as Facebook. For example, on the popular social media app, ads start appearing to inform you about a new cryptocurrency. Well, if you know your way around, you’ll figure out that it’s designed to trick users into giving up sensitive data, like their credit card information.
On the next page (after clicking on the ad) is more obvious. However, it might still fool some less informed people, which walks readers through the process of “investing” in CashlessPay. You really don’t want to click on such ads as there will be huge consequences later on.
Fake Coupons and Gift Cards
Coupons are also a popular way for hackers to harvest your personal information. As you all know, it’s kind of hard to resist amazing offers popping up all of a sudden. You might feel lucky to get those, but in reality, you’re just being reeled in to get scammed.
In most cases, clicking on the fake coupon will download a certain installer on your device. This might be a banking trojan. It doesn’t matter what operating system you’re using. Once you click on the link, the download starts, and everything goes south.
An Unhappy Meal
A while ago, the same incident occurred with McDonald’s as fake coupons dominated the Brazilian Facebook. Let’s just say that whoever clicked on the coupon got a very Unhappy Meal. The fake coupons customers got on their Facebook looked like this.
This will lead to another page where they ask you to either get back to your shopping spree or benefit from what you missed in terms of previous deals. Now, eventually, you’ll have to submit your personal information, and you’ll be doing what the hacker wants you to do.
McDonald’s UAE also warned its customers about this problem by posting the following on their Facebook page.
Kohl’s Unhappy Birthday
Another example is the huge retailer, Kohl. A fake coupon is making the rounds claiming that the company is offering 100$ off coupons to customers on its 57th anniversary. To any customer, that’s an excellent deal. However, to those privacy-minded people, that comes in as a bit “phishy” (pun intended).
As I mentioned, the coupon states that you can claim a 100$ off if you follow the link before the amount runs out. They also show you a certain number of coupons remaining so that you hurry up and click on the coupon. Take a look at what other users found to be so intriguing.
Technically, the voucher seen above is a fake, and if you didn’t click it, you’re one of the lucky ones. Hackers use such tools to harvest customer data, which will include their credit card information. Luckily, Kohl’s took it to social media and addressed the situation on the spot.
Legit coupons are officially distributed through the official channels of the company. Whether it’s an app or their official website, these are the ones you should stick to. If a fake coupon emerges on your page, you will definitely find a way to tingle that spidey sense of yours. There’s always a loophole.
Now, this is one of the most common ways to get a hold of a person’s personal information. Phishing emails are normal emails sent to your inbox posing as a legit company such as Amazon or your Bank. According to recent studies, 97% of internet users cannot differentiate between a phishing email and a real one.
The email looks exactly like what the official company would send, and it always includes a link for you to click on. To proceed with the process, you must tap on the link and provide your personal information, including your credit card number, home address, and full name.
However, these are exactly the credentials you shouldn’t be giving away under any circumstances. It’s really simple. Take “the long” way around and visit the official company website. That way, you’ll know if the email you got is not a scam, and you won’t be providing any crucial information to an unknown party. Here’s what a Phishing email may look like:
Let me help you out and show you what exactly to look for to identify whether the email is fake or not:
- Spelling Mistakes.
- Vague Salutations. (Where your name is not included).
- Weird Email.
- The link inside the email (Hover over it to check if it’s the official one)
- Unsolicited Attachment.
- The email asks to send money.
- Includes an unrealistic offer or threat.
- Questionable signature line.
Keep your eyes wide open for thematic promotional emails that may ask you to fill out your private information to claim your ‘prize’. If you don’t take proper precautions, you become the prize.
Online Shopping Scams in 2020 – Final Thoughts
Online shopping will always exist and be part of our lives. However, as it exists, scammers and thieves will always be there waiting for the right moment to rip you off. As an internet user, there’s pretty much nothing that you can physically do about it. But in the meantime, the best thing you can do to stay one step ahead of their trickery is through acquiring knowledge.
This guide has everything you need to know. Read it well, learn what scams you’re up against in 2020, and avoid them. It’s not that hard. In case you’ve run into other scams before, please share them in the comments below and I’ll update the article accordingly.