We’re headed into the busiest shopping season of the year. According to a recent Gallup poll, virtually all holiday shoppers—93%—will buy at least some gifts online this year. And approximately 41% of shoppers plan to purchase the majority of their holiday gifts from online retailers. The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts that holiday spending will reach an all-time high during November and December this year—up to $957.3 billion. The NRF also expects online shopping to increase between 7% and 9% year-on-year.
But as online shopping sales increase, so do the risks of fraud and theft. The shift to online shopping paired with anonymity of the Internet gives scammers the perfect opportunity to target unsuspecting shoppers. While online shopping can help you save time and money during the holidays, falling victim to a scammer can cost you. More than ever, it’s important to take precautions while shopping online.
Here are 10 common ways scammers can take advantage of your information—and your bank account:
- Phishing websites
Scammers build imitation websites that mirror popular retailers and luxury stores to trick consumers into providing payment information. The domain name, layout, photos, and product listings can be nearly identical. Don’t get lured in by claims of deep discounts. Pay close attention to the domain name in your browser and watch for red flags such as typos, bad grammar, or suspicious prompts.
- Fake online stores
For every legitimate online retailer, there are a handful of fake retailers. Before you shop at a new website, read reviews and double check the URL. Make sure the website you’re on is secure; it should have “https” at the beginning of the URL. Never provide your credit card information unless you’re on a secure site. If you’re ever in doubt, type the website URL into your browser manually.
- Fake social media profiles
Today, online shopping goes beyond a traditional ecommerce website. Social media makes it easier than ever to buy products directly through the platform. Today, one-third of holiday shoppers plan to shop using social media. As you shop online, beware of imitation social media profiles that can drive you to phony websites designed to steal your information.
- Deceptive ads
Nearly anyone can use social media advertising to promote their website—including scammers. Be wary of ads that you’re served on social media, especially ones that promote sales that are too good to be true. Despite protective measures in place, even legitimate ads can be cloned and repurposed for malicious purposes.
- Counterfeit goods
Many scammers and counterfeiters pose as third-party sellers on popular e-commerce platforms. The proliferation of knock-off products, false claims, and fake reviews is a serious problem that tends to go unreported.
- Advance payments
Scammers often offer goods and services in exchange for up-front payments. Sometimes the scammers will request payment via digital payment, wire transfer, or gift cards. However, once this payment is made, the scammer disappears. Protect yourself by shopping with credit cards, which can help you track fraudulent transactions and avoid many online shopping scams.
Online marketplace scams are on the rise. There are many ways that fraudsters take advantage of people buying and selling online, including fake accounts, advance payments, and counterfeit or nonexistent products. When buying from a seller on an online platform, don’t communicate outside the platform, don’t provide more information than necessary, and don’t pay for an item before receiving it.
- Phishing emails and messages
This time of year, every retailer is doubling down on email marketing in the hopes of generating a sale. During the holiday season, scammers spoof seasonal emails, including fake shipping confirmations and fake email receipts. Before you click on any link, hover over the hyperlink to see the entire website URL.
- Public Wi-Fi
While it’s tempting to shop over public Wi-Fi when you’re out and about, it’s better to wait until you’re on a secure network. When you’re on public Wi-Fi or possibly a phony network, scammers can intercept your data, including your credit card numbers, passwords, and personal information.
- Package delivery confirmation scams
More online shopping means more package deliveries. In this increasingly popular scam, fraudsters send fake text messages about delivering your package, often including a “missed delivery” notification or “tracking link” to update delivery or payment preferences. If you receive any of these communications, err on the side of caution and do not reply to the sender.
While funds lost to scams are typically irretrievable, there are instances when recovery is possible. Stellar Bank’s fraud prevention and security team is committed to monitoring suspicious activities and proactively preventing fraudulent transactions. Visit our website for more information on how to protect yourself against suspicious or fraudulent activity.
If you feel you or someone you know may have been a victim of a scam, contact Stellar Bank immediately.