It’s that time of the year again. The season of receiving and, more importantly giving, tends to pull shoppers online to look for “best deals” and “up-for-grab” offers to purchase presents for their loved ones.
The steady growth of eCommerce in Ghana over the past few years has given rise to many small and thriving online stores clamoring for sales from buyers who opt for convenience; making an order for a product on their phones or laptops anywhere and at any time and getting them delivered right at their doorstep.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok have become major platforms that make it easy for buyers and sellers to meet and transact business, but they have also created an avenue for scammers to take advantage, particularly buyers.
Going into the Christmas season, the phenomenon is widespread, with many fake online business pages scamming shoppers of huge sums through ridiculous deals.
How likely are you to fall victim to these dodgy deals?
With the holiday shopping season and mega sale event Black Friday fast approaching, the Cyber Security Authority (CSA) has urged consumers to be extra vigilant of scams and fraudulent activities online.
The CSA reported that over 320 cases of online fraud have already been reported this year, resulting in losses of over GH¢906,000.
The agency anticipates a surge in the numbers in the coming weeks.
Here are some common scams you should be aware of in this Christmas season;
Online shopping scams
While many online sellers are legitimate, unfortunately, scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off unsuspecting shoppers.
Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even a ‘.com.’ domain name and stolen business number.
Many of these websites offer luxury items such as popular brands of clothing, jewelry, and electronics at low prices. Sometimes you will receive the item you paid for but it will be fake, other times you will receive nothing at all.
After making a number of sales, the stores disappear.
Phishing scams are a tried-and-true method to steal personal information. They involve sending emails that look like official communications from trusted websites but are actually forgeries.
Emails may direct people to download apps that look legitimate but are harvesting data from unsuspecting users instead. Other fake apps may use Open Authorisation, known as OAuth, to connect to Google or Facebook accounts and access information there. Another common phishing scam involves emails warning that a failure to confirm personal details could result in an account being closed.
During the mass purchasing period, chances are high that you stumble upon a fake website of an online store that can very well imitate an existing, reputed store.
Fake websites often mislead buyers with domain names similar to the original brand. By submitting personal data and credit card details on such websites, the buyer risks transferring confidential information to a third party and eventually losing money.
Gift card fraud
While purchasing online, scammers usually only ask for gift card payments. They incentivize buyers by offering a low price or a great deal, prompting the victim to fill out their gift card credentials on the phishing website.
The spirit of the season makes people feel generous, and scammers capitalize on that. They may create fake GoFundMe pages for a seemingly good cause or impersonate legitimate charities on the phone.
The next most popular fraudulent activity is the travel scam. This scam is on the rise around Christmas and during the summer holidays when people look for the best traveling offers.
Travel fraud can include selling transportation tickets (airlines, railways), hotel rentals, package deals, etc. Fraudsters create phishing sites with these services at the “best price”. As with the previous scams, attackers tend to falsely represent a well-known brand or make up a completely fictional service.
How Can You Avoid Online Scams?
Here are some preventive measures you can adopt to avoid becoming a victim of online scams;
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails and texts offering great deals on gifts or vacation packages. Many of these offers are fraudulent and will lead to identity theft or other financial losses.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in emails or texts from unknown senders. These could contain malicious software that will infect your device and give scammers access to your personal information.
- Beware of fake websites that look like legitimate retailers. These sites are created for the sole purpose of stealing your credit card information. Only shop on websites that you know and trust.
- Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a purchase right away. Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision without putting pressure on you.
The best way to detect a fake trader or social media online shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing.
As the holiday season approaches, it isn’t only retailers who want your money. Scammers and hackers are looking for ways to crack into your accounts and make off with your cash or your identity.
Beware of online scammers!