Tech

Online shoppers risk losing over $53M to holiday scams

Image: Pickawood

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned today that online shoppers risk losing more than $53 million during this year’s holiday season to scams promising bargains and hard-to-find gifts.

“During the 2020 holiday shopping season, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 17,000 complaints regarding the non-delivery of goods, resulting in losses over $53 million,” the federal law enforcement agency said in a public service announcement issued through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

“It is anticipated this number could increase during the 2021 holiday season due to rumors of merchandise shortages and the ongoing pandemic.”

Besides money losses, scammers’ targets also risk falling victim to identity theft and fraudulent card charges after having their personal or financial information stolen with web skimmers or in phishing attacks.

While targeting online shoppers during the holidays, scammers use various tactics to bait them, including discounts that seem too good to be true:

  • E-mails advertising hot-ticket or hard-to-find items, such as event tickets or gaming systems.
  • Untrusted websites and ads promoting unrealistic discounts and bargains.
  • Social media posts, often appearing to have been shared by a known friend, offering vouchers, gift cards, freebies, and contests.
  • Social media hosted advertisements for non-existent or counterfeit items.

This warning follows a similar one issued Tuesday alerting the public of ongoing spear-phishing emails targeting customers of “brand-name companies” in attacks known as brand phishing.

The attackers embed malware or login forms into their phishing pages to steal the victims’ user credentials, payment details, and other types of personally identifiable information (PII).

Check Point revealed in the Brand Phishing Report for Q2 2021 that the top five brands by their appearance in brand phishing attacks are Microsoft (accounting for 45% of all attempts globally), DHL (26%), Amazon (11%), BestBuy (4%), and Google (3%).

In February, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the total number of identity theft reports doubled in 2020 compared to the year before, with a record of 1.4 million reports received in 12 months.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) provides security tips on how to stay safe online while shopping. The FBI also shared tips on how to avoid falling victim to online shopping scams.

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