One of the lingering effects of COVID-19 is Americans continuing to shop extensively online. According to Statista, the revenue in the E-commerce market in the U.S. is forecasted to continuously increase between 2023 and 2027 by $490 billion. And 56.6% of their surveyed respondents prefer shopping online to in person. According to Adobe Analytics data, consumers spent a record total of $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday in 2022, representing 5.8% growth year-over-year. That's nearly $12.8 million during the peak hour, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
Buyers must be wary of fraudulent offers and products if they plan to shop online for Cyber Monday. The Federal Trade Commission reported that consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, an increase of more than 30% from 2021. A 2022 AARP survey found that more than a third of U.S. adults have been asked to pay a fake fee, debt, or other financial obligation by a scammer. The most common type of scam using this tactic is the “sweepstakes” scenario, where bad actors convince people to purchase gift cards to “pay fees” to claim sweepstakes winnings.
There are warning signs to look for and best practices you can use to ensure you are not a cybercrime victim on Cyber Monday. Here are six of them:
- Some scams are not as easy to spot as bad actors often copy company logos, images, and branding to imitate legitimate websites. These scammers target the online shopper via email, mobile phone, and social media schemes to lure the victim to a false website. Make sure the website you are going to is the company's actual site. Check the URL and compare it to the URL for a company search.
- When purchasing online, do not click on any ads. Do not click on any email links. Instead, go directly to the website from your browser by typing in the web address. Before making a purchase, research the vendor, including complaints and reviews.
- Be on the lookout for emails or texts from companies claiming to be delivery companies, such as FedEx or UPS, saying that you have a shipment from a friend or family member. The email or text will include a link directing you to a false website asking for a credit card to pay for shipping (and then stealing your credit card information).
- If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't. If a discount on an item exceeds 50%, there's a chance it may be a scam, so be wary.
- For the most protection, always make online purchases using your credit card. Avoid using debit or prepaid cards. There is a general liability limit of $50 for fraudulent charges on credit cards, and most credit card companies offer 100% purchase protection. This protection is not provided on debit or prepaid cards.
- Scammers may also send official-looking emails claiming to be from Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Costco, etc. Amazon recommends that if you receive such an email, first go to your orders on Amazon to "see if there is an order that matches the details in the email correspondence."
Buyers also need to be aware of phone call scams. Scammers will try to trick unwary people by offering holiday deals or asking for charitable donations in exchange for login credentials, credit card information, or bank account numbers. And if the caller asks for payment with a gift card, that's probably a scam. Legitimate organizations will not ask for payment with a gift card. A sure way to avoid fraudulent phone calls is not to answer any call that is an unknown number.
Shopping online this holiday season can help you be safe from COVID-19 transmission and offer great deals, but you need to be careful. Cybercriminals invest a lot of time and effort to try and scam you out of your money, so thoroughly examine whom you are buying from before you make your purchases.