Five Risks to Consider When Buying Online

02. December 2020

An article by Lucy Rose DeLeon


Christmas online shopping

The Internet and the evolution of new technologies have completely transformed the way we shop. Buying online is fast, super easy, and cost-efficient. It also gives you a high level of flexibility, access to better deals, and the ability to do a side-by-side comparison of different products or services. Consequently, B2C e-commerce sales across the globe stood at $3.53 trillion in 2019 and are expected to reach $6.54 trillion in 2022. But such huge volumes attract many fraudsters and cybercriminals looking to steal money and sensitive data from both online stores and shoppers. That’s why it’s important to know the four major risks you could encounter when buying online.

1. Phishing

Phishing is a form of cyberattack that leverages disguised email to steal from unsuspecting Internet users. The objective is to mislead email recipients into thinking the message is from reputable companies and encourage them to divulge sensitive personal data like credit card details and passwords. Phishing is the biggest concern for online stores. In fact, a 2016 retail crime survey found that phishing is a major concern for 69 percent of retailers interviewed.

“Spear phishing” is another trick that fraudsters are using to steal from unsuspecting individuals. This cybercrime involves individuals receiving customized scam emails built to appear as if they’re from family members, colleagues, friends, or even preferred online stores.

Solution: Stay alert, and if an email looks suspicious, avoid clicking on any links included no matter how persuasive the email content is. Instead, delete that email right away. Also, bookmark the website pages of your favorite online stores and only use these any time you want to visit them.

2. Adware and Malware

While browsing social media platforms or e-commerce stores, attractive ads and offers pop up on the screens of users. These ads are not legitimate most of the time. They might be attractive and compelling, but once a user clicks on them, they are redirected to other sites where they are required to sign up and provide their personal information. That’s basically how scammers gain access to sensitive personal information of Internet users through adware.

Sometimes, even reputable online stores are victims of malware attacks. This means every user who visits the site is at risk of falling prey to dangerous malware. In addition to stealing personal data, cybercriminals use malware to monitor your Internet browsing activities and send potentially disgusting or illegal content to other computers using your computer.

Solution: Avoid clicking on pop-up ads that require you to provide personal information. Use complex and separate passwords for your different accounts. Browse safely by installing reliable VPN software like NordVPN to encrypt your personal data and mask your IP address.

3. Fake Online Reviews and Ratings

An assortment of positive reviews and five-star ratings can work magic for online stores. For this reason, many online sellers are under pressure to populate their sites with positive reviews and ratings. Some go to the extent of posting fake reviews. In fact, some Internet users have admitted to posting fake testimonials and ratings. Other online sellers even provide refunds to shoppers in order to get positive reviews.

Solution: Be wary of reviews that are too sketchy or too positive. Check people’s opinions on Yelp and other social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. Also, check reviews on several sites such as epinions.com and Amazon.

4. Money Transfers

As the world is becoming more interconnected and everything is more accessible than ever, the need for conducting international financial transactions has also increased. The traditional means of money transfer, namely banks, not only tend to overcharge clients but also place restrictions on the amount of money you can transfer from one account to another. This has spurred the need for alternative means of transferring money. While these means tend to be conventional, there are risks associated with them such as security and fraud.

5. Identity Theft

Identity theft is another common risk that comes with buying online. Scammers access your personal details and use them to make purchases. They keep track of your online activities with the goal of getting hold of your valuable personal information. One of the many ways that hackers spy on you is by tricking you to install a spy app on your computer or mobile devices. This way, they can use the keylogging feature to record every sensitive detail about you.

Solution: Don’t divulge sensitive personal information to anyone. Things like passwords to your debit or credit cards should be kept private. Review your financial information frequently to ensure there are no discrepancies or errors. Make your purchases only from trusted websites. Furthermore, if you need to send your personal information through email, to e-commerce stores, use encrypted zip files to send the data. Zipping will compress your files into one unit, whereas encrypting it will help secure your personal data, and reduce its vulnerability to potential hackers.

Final Thoughts

Buying online is extremely convenient. But if you don’t put the right measures in place, it can also be unsafe. So always adopt safe Internet-browsing practices, buy from reputable online stores, and install reliable antivirus software.