Online shopping scams and phishing websites are nothing new. They’ve been around since the 90s and have increasingly grown over the years; especially since COVID, when everyone was shopping online. It’s just that scammers have gotten much better, and more creative, at designing websites that appear to be legitimate retail websites.
Phishing websites used to be easier to spot, but now they often look like legitimate online stores. Years ago, you could easily spot an online shopping scam by the poor spelling, sloppy web design, and obvious grammatical errors. These days it’s easy to create a duplicate website.
It isn’t just phishing websites that are a problem. Scammers will also set up fake online stores on trusted social media platforms, and run fraudulent ads on Google; despite Google having policies in place prohibiting fraudulent ads (as if scammers and fraudsters follow rules and regulations). Earlier this year, Sen. Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai stating that Google has demonstrated a “troubling record of inadequate due diligence against fraud and abuse.”
What’s a Phishing Website?
Basically, a phishing website is a website that’s set up for the sole purpose of stealing your information, or as much of your information as possible. These websites are designed to convince you that it’s a legitimate site so that you’ll perform an action (i.e. filling out a form, or making a purchase). There’s usually a special offer, or deep discount on a product — that’s “too good to be true.”
The secret ingredient for a successful phishing attack is human emotion: Greed, Urgency, Fear (of missing out on something), Curiosity, Desire to Help.
How to Determine if a Website is Safe
Follow these tips to help spot an online shopping scam.
You can also use Google’s Transparency Report, which will tell you how safe a website is.
Also. Disable cookies as much as possible and clear your browser history, cache, and cookies often.
Cautionary Tip: Don’t be “Overly Social” on Your Social Sites
The general idea of social media sites is to share something online, usually with family, friends, co-workers… and thousands of people we’ve never even met offline. It’s great to share something; just not everything! If you overshare on your social media sites (such as posting your mother’s maiden name, where you went to school, your address, etc.), you may be giving away the information a hacker needs in order to access your credit card information.
Adults Under 60 Report Losses to Online Shopping Scams More Than Older Adults
Many people think scams mostly affect older adults. But reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel tell a different story: anyone can be scammed. In fact, reports suggest that many scams are harming younger people more than older adults. While there’s more to the story, the broad theme is that scams affect every age group, but differently.
According to the FTC, consumers under the age of 60 are significantly more likely — 86 percent — to report losing money to online shopping scams than older adults. Consumers under 60 most often said those scams originated from posts on social media. (Source: FTC, December 8, 2022)
What to do if You Suspect Fraud
Of course, the first thing to do is call your bank or credit card company to alert them. Most likely, they will cancel your credit card and issue you a new one.
If your bank account numbers were caught up in a breach, close that account and open a new one.
You can also contact: