How to shop safely online by avoiding common scams
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How to shop safely online by avoiding common scams

How to shop safely online by avoiding common scams

Although online shopping is extremely convenient, consumers should always be alert when looking for the top offers

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With the retail industry gearing up for this year’s Black Friday on November 25 and Cyber Monday on November 28, most of us will probably be on the hunt for the best available deals.

What’s truly intriguing, though, is the popularity of Black Friday throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

According to Google’s data, search interest around Black Friday starts 12 weeks before the big day in MENA, which is a whole month earlier than American and Indian consumers start looking. Additionally, 51 per cent of shoppers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia believe that the Black Friday sales season is more important than any other sale during the year.

Considering that 61 per cent of the same group of shoppers expect to find identical discounts online as they would in-store, it is reasonable to predict that online shopping is likely to explode. Along with the activities of cyber criminals, of course, who eagerly await their own kind of opportunities.

Steven Cunnington, global lead – Identity Assistance Solutions, Collinson

During the Black Friday season, there is a surge in the number of copycat websites. The term ‘copycat’ refers to websites that attempt to mimic popular online retailers, from having a similar domain name to sharing the same overall web design. Similarly, there is a rise in scam websites, which are usually set-up to offer goods in amazing offers.

In either situation, the best-case scenario is that customers will receive imitations, and the worst-case scenario is that they will receive nothing at all – and their personal and financial information will be exploited to conduct additional fraud.

Kaspersky recorded a 208 per cent spike in phishing websites in the run up to last year’s (2021) Black Friday. However, fraudulent websites are just part of the problem. The cybersecurity company revealed an equally alarming increase in scam emails, specifically mentioning the words ‘Black Friday’ within their content. Last August, the Saudi Ministry of Commerce issued a warning about fake websites that attempt to extract financial information from unsuspecting users.

Cybercriminals will undoubtedly use every trick in the book to lure their next victims. Yet, consumers that want to safeguard their personal and financial information, can take the following simple steps:

•Look out for phishing emails or text messages: Check the source of the email or text message before clicking on any links which could lead to a copycat or scam website. In case you are not absolutely sure, you should delete the email get a second opinion first.
•Beware of fraudulent websites: Be extremely cautious of unknown online retailers promoted through online advertising and social media. If you are unsure, check for customer reviews and verify that the company’s headquarters location and contact centre number are legitimate. When it comes to copycat websites, double-check the URL. Copycat websites are also prone to typos and grammar errors.
•Use verification codes wisely: Ensure that transaction verification codes are never revealed to a third party and are only used to authenticate a transaction.
•Follow the fundamental rules of online security: Whether you are using a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, be sure you have the most recent operating system, browser, and app updates installed. Also, never perform online purchases or financial transactions while connected to a public wi-fi network, since many of them are insecure.

Although online shopping is extremely convenient, consumers should always be alert when looking for the top offers. The adoption of basic cybersecurity habits, in conjunction with the enhanced security provided by advanced identity protection solutions, may bring peace of mind in a digital-first world.

Steven Cunnington is the global lead for Identity Assistance Solutions at Collinson

Read: Awareness and cooperation key to warding off cyberattacks

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