Digital retailers make getting your holiday shopping done easy: you can buy what you need wearing pajamas on your couch if you want.
But it also comes with its own unique risks. Digital payment fraud has been growing with criminals paying special attention to the Black Friday shopping season.
“The total number of financial phishing attempts targeting e-payment systems more than doubled from September 2021 (627,560) to October 2021 (1,935,905), showing a 208% increase,” according to a study by online security company Kapersky.
Those numbers are actually somewhat modest compared to what SEON Technologies, a fraud prevention, and detection API, found last year.
“As a fraud-fighting team, we can see a lot of online purchases happening and fraudsters taking advantage of it. Last year alone there was a 385% increase in fraud attempts in [our] network, self-described SEON fraud fighter Robert Kormoczi in an email to TheStreet.
Fraud is not always easy to spot
People trust big retail brands like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), That makes sense because hundreds of millions of Americans use Amazon.com and its app on regular basis, which builds trust in the brand.
That trust, however, can be exploited by people looking to perpetrate online payment scams. Criminals often use well-know brands to lure people
“Amazon was consistently the most popular lure used by cybercriminals to launch phishing attacks. The second most popular was, for most of 2021, eBay, followed by Alibaba and Mercado Libre,” according to the Kapersky report.
Digital payment scams have been growing as we have moved closer to the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
“The total number of financial phishing attempts targeting e-payment systems more than doubled from September (627,560) to October (1,935,905) — a 208% increase,” according to Kapersky.
What can consumers do?
Avoiding scams requires vigilance and skepticism. You’re not going to get scammed when you visit the Amazon website or app.
Instead, scammers use a variety of phishing tactics to make consumers think they’re interacting with Amazon or another well-known and trusted retailer, while they’re not actually shopping or sharing sensitive information where they think they are.
Kapersky laid out some of these scenarios in its report:
One of the most common scams is to create a fake website offering great deals for popular shopping portals. Kaspersky researchers uncovered such phishing pages for Walmart, eBay, Amazon, Alibaba and Mercado Libre in various languages.
In the example below, the user can supposedly earn a special prize for completing a four-question survey. In fact, users end up giving away their personal data for free.
That’s because these surveys often have a long registration form that requires users to fill in their identifying information and, sometimes, bank card details. They’re often asked to then send the link to several friends — so that the scammers can reach more potential victims.
Scammers will also use tactics like sending you emails that appear to come from Amazon or other credible retailers, telling you your account has been locked or that your credit card information needs to be updated. People naturally want to correct these problems and may try to do so without considering whether they’re being scammed.
There are some simple ways to avoid this type of scam, according to FICO's TJ Horan who issued a press release with a number of online shopping safety tips.
“Check twice before clicking on an SMS or email to confirm it is genuine,” he wrote. “Look at the design, copy, spelling and of course the intended URL link to see if it's genuine. Better still, navigate to the intended site yourself, without clicking on the link, to be sure you're reaching the genuine landing page.”
Horan also suggests a healthy dose of skepticism. He points out that when a deal seems too good to be true, it often is.
“Everyone likes to think they might have gotten lucky, but it pays to pause and check-in with your inner skeptic,” he wrote.
“Are your internet sleuthing skills really that good that you managed to find the very last item? Scarcity is a persuasion tactic that is used by legitimate retailers but also by scammers. Remember that scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you're not expecting it.”