November 26, 2019

Shop safely online

By Peter Stones, Information Security

Upcoming mega shopping events ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ often prompt an increase in crafty phishing campaigns and fraudulent websites. Don’t let a Cyber-Scrooge ruin your festive season – here are my watch outs for the following scams:

Auction site angst

Auction sites such as eBay can offer good protection for buyers, but it can be difficult to check the authenticity of what you’re buying. Scammers will sometimes offer desirable brand-name items for sale at a very attractive price. Unfortunately, the items are affordable because they’re counterfeit.

Remember that eBay will only protect buyers (and sellers) when the transaction is completed within the terms of the site. Dodgy sellers may ask for payment to be sent outside the platform (e.g. cash, bank transfer, cheque or even gift cards). Once the scammer has your money, you’re unlikely to receive the item you paid for, and under these circumstances, eBay won’t help.

Be wary of sellers with zero ratings or poor reviews – and be mindful that even sellers with good ratings could have had their account hacked, as fraudsters value accounts with high ratings.

The fake website

Cyber criminals are experts at creating websites that look identical to your favourite retailers. Hackers can also manipulate search engines (Google, Yahoo! etc.) to place their own dodgy links near the top of the search results. Don’t enter your personal details or payment information if you see any signs that the site isn’t genuine, for example:

  • The site looks poorly designed, unprofessional or contains broken links
  • You can’t find the business address or the usual sales, returns and privacy policies
  • The back button is disabled – in other words, you get stuck on a webpage and can’t go back
  • The site doesn’t show a padlock icon in the address bar and the website address doesn’t start with “HTTPS” – meaning the website doesn’t use an encrypted or secure connection

The offer alert – ‘Special Offer! Amazing Deal! Act Now!’

Tempting emails or texts with amazing bargains, e-vouchers, or this year’s must-have gift are common. Resist temptation to click on links and look for the offer details on the official retailer’s website instead.

If you receive an unusual email about any of your online accounts – perhaps warning you about a transaction – don’t log in to check straight from the email. Instead, open your internet browser and go to the genuine retailer log-in screen.

Watch out for e-cards arriving into your inbox too – they might look like season’s greetings from Auntie Ethel, but they could lead to malware being installed on your device.

The Golden Rule

If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. So, if you’ve found the latest trendy gadget for a fifth of the normal selling price, it’s likely to be a scam!