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SCAMMED! What are the warning signs and how to stay clear of online scams

Jun 10, 2021

Delhi-based Arvind, 48, recently saw on his Facebook page the advertisement of an all-in-one printer and scanner, with free cartridges, and at a discounted price of Rs 659, and thought it was too good an offer to let go. He went ahead, clicked on it, saw the website, the product, and as everything looked genuine to him, he placed the order. Even though he wanted to make the payment through ‘cash on delivery’, but with no option of COD, he paid through Google Pay. He received a confirmation mail after placing the order, and that was it. There was no more communication, no other way to communicate with the company. The emails sent by Arvind remained unanswered. After almost a month he understood and accepted that he was scammed.Online shopping scams are on the rise nowadays. Online shopping scams are not new. They are actually old school tricks, wherein scammers – pretending to be legitimate online sellers — use either a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site to trap customers.With new and improved technology, fraudsters also get an edge, as it’s easier than for scam artists to dig out financial data from unsuspecting consumers. Identity theft, online scams, data breaches, year after year, different types of fraud sweeps the nation, leaving countless victims on their way.According to a recent global report from ACI Worldwide and GlobalData reveals that, while card-related fraud remains highest in terms of reported incidents from consumers, fraud incidents associated with real-time payments were on the rise from 2019 to 2020 as fraudsters tend to target new channels.McAfee India’s Managing Director and VP of Engineering, Venkat Krishnapur, says, “The pandemic has led to a huge shift in behaviours across age groups, with consumers avoiding in-store purchases due to social distancing norms or travel restrictions, and preferring to buy things online. This spike in online shopping has opened a new window for third-party sellers and malicious actors to step in.”He further adds, “In a bid to avail the best deals and discounts, consumers often unknowingly expose themselves to risks by venturing on malicious websites, where they carelessly give away personal, sensitive information. They also run the risk of falling prey to phishing attacks through spam e-mails and promotional messages.”

What are the warning signs that one needs to be aware of?
Online Shopping scams, experts believe, are a result of consumers naivety and unawareness regarding warning signals.

Mastercard VP, Cyber and Intelligence Solutions, South Asia, Sujay Vasudevan, says, “Generally, these online scam websites give consumers offers and prices which are too good to be true. Some warning signs include low prices, very less time to ‘get the deal’, asking for immediate payments so that you don’t miss out, insistence for payment by electronic fund transfer or a wire service, among others.”

Note that, if you land upon a fraudulent site, the seller will always insist on immediate payment or payment by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. Manoj Kanodia, CEO, Inspira Enterprise, says “If a product is advertised with amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true, in the majority of the cases it is not true, but fake. Some of the signs that give away the authenticity are when the platforms have limited information about their delivery and other policies, shoddy website design or sloppy English, URLs with extraneous words or characters and limited social media presence.”

According to experts, typically, scammers don’t mention the terms and conditions, dispute resolution, privacy policy, delivery details and proper contact information. These details are major determinants of a genuine online merchant. Vasudevan, adds, “Customers should refrain from using digital currencies and see that the retailer is a domestic or a foreign entity. In addition, they should avoid storing their card details on websites that are new to them or not commonly used by them.”

Here is how you can determine if a website is fake or genuine and protect yourselves from such scams:

With the rise in activity from consumers and cybercriminals alike, there is an added concern about whether users are taking adequate measures to keep themselves safe when shopping online. Suresh Rajagopalan, CEO, Wibmo says, “Typically fake websites use address and names which resembles some popular e-commerce website or any other credible entity like government website e.g. tax-related.”

A recent McAfee study on online shopping behaviour indicated that most consumers did not have adequate safety measures in place, as only 27.5 per cent of Indians were equipped with online security solutions. Krishnapur says, “Consumers need to be aware and alert when it comes to protecting their devices, data and identities from online criminals. Ultimately when it comes to any online activity, always look before you leap!”

Adhering to certain easy, yet important steps can help in safeguarding yourself from fraudsters:

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