We’ve come to expect convenience, speed and selection — not to mention deals — when shopping online. And we can expect purchases will arrive in days — if not hours.
No wonder consumers are projected to spend as much as $117 billion online this holiday season in November and December alone, or about $12 billion more than last year, according to a forecast by the National Retail Federation. Indeed, e-commerce is growing faster than retail sales overall.
Unfortunately, that’s something scam artists and cybercriminals know all too well, states a story by Lorraine Mirabella on AARP.org.
Online fraud is a big and ever-changing reality. Internet merchants have seen the volume of successful fraud attempts rise, along with the cost of fraud, as a share of annual sales, according to the 2016 LexisNexis True Cost of Fraud Study. Retailers’ costs related to fraud rose 9 percent year-over-year as of February for online sales, and 12 percent for sales from mobile devices, the study found. Cellphones pose their own set of fraud and security concerns.
Retailers are fighting back with added layers of security, but scammers still find new ways to breach systems. Credit card issuers are on the verge of eliminating card counterfeiting with the new “chip and pin” technology, but that protects only in-store purchases, says Tricia Lines Hill, senior vice president of business development and marketing for First Atlantic Commerce, which helps merchants and banks protect against fraud. Meanwhile, hackers are rushing to cash in on stolen data from magnetic strip cards.
“It’s hard to know who you’re dealing with on the other end of an online transaction,” says Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America. “You have to be aware there are people out there whose intentions are to take your money and give you nothing in return.”
Online shopping isn’t going away. But neither are scammers. So whether shopping by computer or smartphone, here are steps to protect your money and privacy.
Check out unfamiliar sellers or websites. There’s a level of comfort with big brands’ online channels. But when it comes to unfamiliar merchants, search the web to make sure that sites are legitimate and reliable. Look for reviews for sites that rate products and services, including consumerreports.org or consumeraffairs.com, and for gripe sites such as ripoffreport.com.
While problems crop up at even the best of sites, there’s a distinction between mistakes and true scams. Start with a Google search, suggests Hemanshu Nigam, a Los Angeles-based cyber security expert and CEO of SSP Blue, which helps companies with cyber security. See what others are saying. Scams will be called out quickly.
Also, watch out for pop-up ads, which often lead to fake websites designed to steal credit card data, says Lines Hill. Most legitimate businesses today won’t use them.