With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, many people are more comfortable shopping at home than going to crowded stores.
The consulting firm Deloitte forecasts that e-commerce sales will grow by 25% to 35%, year-over-year, during the 2020-2021 holiday season. And the National Retail Federation said that in September, online and other non-store sales were up 27 percent year over year.
And while those number may look great for online retailers, they also look good for those seeking to scam online shoppers.
PennLive reached out to Terrill Frantz, associate professor and program lead for Cybersecurity Management and Operations at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, and Ronald Jones, who also teaches cyber security at Harrisburg University, to get their take on how shoppers can avoid being victims this holiday shopping season.
Here are six scams to watch for and tips on how to lower your chances of being defrauded:
Don’t click on links in emails
We get unsolicited emails all the time.
Jones said that you might get a message that looks like it is from PayPal or some other well-known company, notifying you that there is a problem with your account. If it’s from a scammer, and you enter your username and password, they then save the information and will transfer your money to a foreign account.
Jones said that this is a big scam right now and while these emails might look legitimate they’re not.
“Basically the rule is — don’t ever click on anything that is in an email,” he said.
Any email that proclaims a great sense of urgency — an “immediate” or near-term call for you to take an action quickly “before time runs out” — is a red flag and will likely lead to phishing, according to Frantz.
Phishing is a fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to get someone to reveal personal information, including passwords and credit card numbers.
“What they are going to see are essentially phishing attacks,” Frantz said. “They are going to get emails to ask them to click a link under the pretext of donating to some charity [or] ordering something from Amazon real quick.”
Always be wary when you see the word “urgent”.
“That’s the tell-tale sign that you have a threat coming your way,” Frantz said. “That’s what the scammers use.”
Things having to do with the holidays and/or COVID-19 are perfect excuses for urgent replies.
When it says urgent, slow down the process before making a decision. Maybe wait a day before you make any decisions. “Time is the bad guy’s enemy and therefore it is the good guy’s buddy,” Frantz said.
“Too good to be true”
There’s that old saying: If it seems “too good to be true,” it probably is.
If an email is sent to you from a company that has a subscription service, for instance, and they are offering you a free subscription, that should be a red flag, Frantz said.