Be wary when online Christmas shopping

The internet has made shopping so much easier. We have access to tens of thousands of products at our fingertips from a multitude of online channels. And with just a little research, we’ll be able to find the best Christmas presents for our loved ones, at the best possible prices, from the comfort of our homes.

However, this extraordinary level of convenience also exposes us to a whole slew of new risks and pitfalls. As such, every online shopper should take the initiative to learn about the hazards and perils of online shopping to ensure they will not be defrauded during the Christmas season. 

We take a look at three of the most insidious methods that criminals might use to snare you.

Avoiding fake websites

Anyone can buy a domain and build a website for just a few dollars. Criminals know this, which is why they buy domains and build websites that look like popular online marketplaces. They might even promote generic-looking websites filled with thousands of products and fake reviews. Their aim here is not only to get you to pay for non-existent or counterfeit products, but also to access your credit card, bank or PayPal accounts. 

How can you avoid browsing, or worse, exposing your financial information to such websites?

  1. Don’t click links on emails, especially from people you don’t know. These phishing emails are the most common way criminals get customers to visit their websites. 
  2. Check the URLs, or web address, of the website you’re on when shopping. Look out for misspellings or underscores. Major e-commerce websites also have verified digital certificates (the padlock to the left of the URL), so immediately leave any ecommerce website without such certificates. In addition, only conduct business on websites which use the secure ‘https’ protocol – data sent using the ‘http’ protocol can be intercepted, copied and modified.
  3. Keep an eye out for grammatical errors or strange sentence constructions. Most phishing and fraudulent websites are built and hosted overseas. Naturally, they don’t hire expensive native-speaking copywriters to write their web content. So if you see broken English or misspellings on respectable looking websites, steer clear!

Be careful of fake app stores

Apps make our lives so much easier and simpler. In fact, many of us can no longer remember a time when banking, news and game apps didn’t exist. Criminals realise this as well, which is why they discreetly upload fake apps. These apps look and function exactly like popular apps, but the data you entered is sent to a hidden server on the dark web. Once they receive your login information, they will quickly access your financial and personal information using the original app.

Before downloading any app, read the publisher details and reviews to make sure you are downloading the real thing. If an allegedly popular app has no user reviews, hit the report button and leave.

Watch out for fake ads

Some online advertisements are so well designed that our eyes are automatically drawn to them, with many of them advertising products at ridiculously low prices. Potentially, this is a fraudster using a fake account to lend legitimacy to their ads. Such ads are usually removed as soon as discovered, but not always before people begin clicking on them. 

If you’ve potentially clicked on such ads, use the tips we mentioned earlier – check the URL, digital certificates and language. If anything seems off, leave the site. If a download prompt appears, close the tab or browser immediately.

Obviously, these are just a few examples of the kind of dangers you will encounter online. You need to stay alert and be guarded against other potential fraudulent online schemes.

Take a stand against the fakes

If you have been an unfortunate victim to any of the above, you may want to help stop others from the unscrupulous fraudsters. You can take a stand by joining our initiative and by using the hashtag #ImForReal initiative and help spread the campaign for "A Cleaner Internet. A Better Society.".

More on Brand Protection:

5 top tips to avoid buying online fakes

Protecting children from fake toy harm

#ImForReal - Take a stand against the market of counterfeit goods

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