Online shopping has become more prevalent now than ever, with more people discovering how convenient it is to add-to-cart, check out, and wait for their items to arrive — all in the comforts of their homes. Whether it’s through an e-commerce site, a small online business, or even an established brand that migrated to the virtual selling space, this generation of shoppers shifted most of their transactions online.
This current norm is convenient, efficient, and fitting to the home quarantine situation. The disadvantage? Cybercriminals have managed to exploit this behavior through online scams. They come armed with experience in collecting personal information and hacking the data to make money in fraudulent ways. So it is important to be aware of these scams to prevent yourself and your loved ones from being victimized.
Spotting a potential scam
First, see if the deal is too good to be true because chances are, it is. An example is a product that is being sold for an unrealistically low price and is marked as “out of stock.” This might be bait for the buyer to contact the seller directly and agree to pay for the product via bank transfer, and after the payment has been made, the seller would fail to deliver. Another possibility is that the seller would pull out personal information directly from the buyer such as the full name, address, mobile number, and valid ID, and then use these as the “seller’s credentials.” The other scammed victims will thus be following up on their items through that buyer.
Second, be vigilant with social engineering attacks. For example, scammers might call you to offer an upgrade on your credit card limit or a waiver of annual fees, or perhaps inform you that your credit card has been compromised and that they need to verify your account. These tactics aim to get you to provide confidential information such as the card verification value (CVV), expiration date, and one-time password (OTP) which they can use to hack your account.
According to Joey Regala, chief information security and data protection officer, EastWest, there are simple ways to shop online safely without exposing yourself to these scams.
“First, use online shopping platforms which have a secured website and mobile app to ensure that the transactions are encrypted,” Regala said.
To know that a website is secure, it should start with “https” rather than “http” as this security is provided by an SSL certificate, which protects sensitive information which enters into that site as it travels from server to server. A secure website would also have a privacy statement and clearly display an email address, phone number, and, if available, a physical address and social media accounts.
“They should also comply with the Data Privacy Law, require an ID and password, and have privacy features, an efficient order tracking system, and a hotline for complaints and reporting of scams,” Regala said.
Since the shopping platform would already have your information, never disclose them to the merchant or the courier. Also, take note of the official delivery companies of the online shop to ensure that the courier who will contact you is legitimate.
Once you receive the item, always shred the shipping label, as scammers can also use this against you. One way is that they would call you and claim that you have a special gift from your friend and send you a link to track the delivery status. When you click it, you might be downloading malware that can give access to the hacker. Another way is that they would sell your information to telemarketers.
EastWest shares ways to shop safely and avoid online scamsRegala added. “Check the authenticity of the product being sold, the URL it leads to, the logo, and other forms of branding. In this digitally centralized world where everything is connected and within reach of cybercriminals, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”