Be wary of online shopping scams – 7 ways to fight them
While some of us may be quite skilled at finding miscellaneous gadgets and great deals on apparel online, relying on e–commerce platforms for all of our basic household needs is a new challenge. Many of us preferred to shop at brick and mortar retail for certain purchases such as groceries or pharmaceuticals. Now that we’ve turned online for all our shopping needs, online suppliers have struggled to meet the surge in demand for certain goods, opening a new space for third-party sellers and malicious actors to step in. Since the beginning of the year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has already received over 8,400 complaints regarding consumer scams, and the total reported consumer loss weighs in at $5.85 million. Here are some common scams to be on the lookout for.
Fake Shopping Websites
Cybercriminals are quick to take advantage of emerging trends or events. We’ve already seen numerous fake shopping websites claiming to sell hot ticket items like cleaning supplies that may be sold out elsewhere. In reality, these credit card-collecting scams may deliver counterfeit goods or nothing at all.
This same logic applies for investments as well. Scammers may be posing as budding companies attempting to raise capital to build medical equipment. Others may be advertising non-existent hedge funds with guarantees of high returns post-crisis. Regardless of the promised deliverable, be sure to conduct sufficient research prior to making major investment decisions.
As Time reports, some sites even promote “remedies ranging from colloidal silver to cow manure.” Luckily, the FTC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have started cracking down on companies that issue unsupported claims about miracle cures and vaccines.
At the time of writing, the FDA has not approved the sale or distribution of any home testing kits. While some of these offers have come from legitimate companies that may have relationships with testing labs, most of these have since received and abided to cease and desist notices. Always reference official entities for guidance on testing, such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) site here.
This doesn’t mean we should halt our online purchasing. If anything, some logistics companies are encouraging us to continue supporting our favorite small retailers through online purchases to keep them afloat in the uncertainty that lies ahead. With many new instances and flavors of cyberattacks popping up overnight, we can help you stay diligent and secure as you adapt to this shift online.
Shop Safely Online
Remember to follow the tips below to ensure your safe online shopping efforts are not in vain:
- Exercise caution when receiving promotional emails or texts from unknown sources, especially those that make claims too good to be true.
- Stay away from unfamiliar ecommerce websites, even if they’re referred by people you know. Some red flags could be nonsensical URLs, misspellings and unprofessional webpage designs. You can also use a free safe browsing extension to help steer you away from illegitimate sites.
- Use a mobile security solution to help you stay secure on your mobile devices with automatic security scans.
- Use a VPN (virtual private network) like McAfee® Safe Connect when conducting sensitive transactions – the data encryption can help ensure your personal information stays protected from prying eyes listening in on your web traffic.
- Consider using an identity theft protection service to help protect, detect, and correct potential breaches in personal information.
- Protect your purchases by looking for sites that begin with “https” instead of “http” – a good way to remember this is “S for secure.”
- Use a comprehensive security suite to ensure your devices and online accounts are protected.