And online, in the period from Black Friday to January, the risk of misrepresentation and identity theft increases. Partly because the number of transactions is increasing, and criminals, sniffing the business, are throwing more hooks, partly because super-discounts encourage speed. When instead, as we shall see, in many cases checks are necessary. The phenomenon is very widespread: the European Central Bank estimates the total number of fraudulent transactions that take place each year at 1.8 billion euros. Here are some tips to avoid fraud or theft of sensitive data.
Watch out for fake places. During the holidays, they come across places to photocopy well-known retailers or large distribution chains. They look a lot like the originals, they are often hard to separate, but they have nothing to do with the brand they are supposed to represent, they don’t sell anything. These are websites skillfully crafted to invite us to enter our information, steal it and use it against us. To then buy with our card or enter our mailbox or home banking.
Convict link. These fake websites can usually be reached by clicking on a link that is sent to us directly (via email, text message or messages like Whatsapp) or advertised on a social network. This is the so-called “phishing”. Which becomes even more insidious if someone we trust sends a link. For this reason, if a friend or relative sends us a message about an unavoidable offer, it is always better to contact him to find out if he is really behind that message. “Cyber criminals are able to gain control over instant messaging accounts by bypassing their legitimate owners through identity theft or malware,” explains Avira, an antivirus company.
Hashtag bait. When it comes to social media, Instagram is one of the most commonly used to spread malicious links. “To increase visibility,” explains Avira, “scammers actually share attractive messages using hashtags like #giveaway, #blackfriday and #discounts that make it easier to research within social channels.” The link is often shared by a fake account that marks dozens of users in its posts in order to get as many shares as possible and thus increase the number of potential victims. The advice is not to click on links shared by unknown accounts and, if shared by friends, ask them if they have already purchased on that page.
The importance of the address bar. But how to recognize a fraud site if it is identical to the original? It’s not really too hard. The first tip is to read the address bar of your browser, on your computer or smartphone. The website URL must start with “https: //”, where the last “s” indicates the encrypted page: the data of those who surf is more secure. But to differentiate the actual seller from the fraudsters, there are other ways: one is to check for the presence of the company’s physical address, phone number, and VAT. Their presence is no guarantee of anything (maybe they were even copied by the company we want to copy), but their absence must alert us.
Watch your money. Fraud cannot always be avoided. For this reason, it is a good idea to protect yourself immediately, to keep the damage to a minimum or to be able to rectify it immediately. Some advice in this regard is provided by Revolut, a fintech company that offers various payment systems for e-commerce as well. The first is the use of disposable cards: they are paid in advance, and after purchase they are destroyed and the number replaced. Even if the fraudster finds out the card number, nothing will happen. Another tip: always enable bank or financial services notifications after each purchase. If there is a suspicious operation, you can intervene immediately and refuse it. More experienced consumers, who use multiple credit or debit cards, can benefit greatly from open banking services: they allow you to see all card transactions in one place, rather than opening individual accounts one at a time.
Password difference. We often choose the most appropriate solution: one password for many things. Appropriate, safe, but just the opposite of safety. It is much better to use a different password for each e-commerce site. And make sure the online store login credentials you often own are different from your online account, email, and social network information. This prevents cybercriminals from hacking into all your accounts after they steal your password.
No public wi-fi. Buying from a smartphone can be very affordable, but be careful where you do it. Entering card or account information online while connected to a public Wi-Fi network is not a good idea, as there is no security guarantee and passing data can be more easily intercepted. Also watch out for wi-fi with the names of bars or restaurants: sometimes these are fictional networks opened by fraudsters, just to capture the data of those who connect. It is always better to ask for credentials from commercial staff.
Our rights. Online shopping can go wrong for many reasons that are not just scams. For this reason, it is good to keep in mind the rights of consumers in the case of distance buying: if the goods do not satisfy us or differ from what we thought, they can be returned within 14 days without giving a reason. It is the so-called right of reconsideration which relates to goods purchased outside the business premises and which, of course, ensures the return of the entire amount paid.