Shoppers are being warned to watch out for scams as they buy their Christmas presents online this year.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday 24-hour sales are set to go ahead on November 26 and 29, with the Australian Retailers Association expecting Australians to spend more than $5 billion in four days.
But after having lost $4.8 million to online shopping scams this year already, Australians are being urged to be cautious with their festive buying.
KnowBe4 security awareness advocate Jacqueline Jayne said the actual amount of money lost to online scams could be “triple” what’s reported.
“Because people’s … ego comes into play, they don’t want to let anyone know they’ve been scammed,” she said.
Ms Jayne told The New Daily one of the main reasons people lose money to scams is a lack of awareness.
She said young people are particularly affected by a lack of education, with data from ScamWatch and Reviews.org showing 25-34 year olds have so far lost the most money to online shopping scams in 2021.
As Australians plan to spend big in the next couple of weeks, Ms Jayne gave TND some of her top tips to avoid getting scammed out of your hard-earned cash this sales season.
1. Do your research
Before pressing ‘pay now’, Ms Jayne said you should spend some time researching your purchase.
For example, if you are looking to buy a TV from an unfamiliar retailer, copy and paste the brand and model number into a search engine to see if it’s available from a more reputable website.
Although the better-known website might charge higher prices, the extra security is worth it, Ms Jayne said.
And if a product is only available on a particular website, search for reviews.
“[If] you can’t actually see the reviews, you can’t know for sure it’s real,” she said.
“If things [look] too good to be true, they probably are.”
2. Change how you pay
Ms Jayne said using a third-party payment service such as PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay, gives you an extra layer of protection by making your transaction more “traceable”.
Getting a second credit card specifically for your online shopping could also be beneficial.
“Worst-case scenario, if something happens, you don’t have to cancel everything in your whole world – it’s just that one card,” she said.
3. Only buy from official websites
Ms Jayne said you should keep your eyes peeled for slight deviations in a website address, and never follow links from an email, SMS, or pop-up ad.
“Sometimes … cybercriminals can create a website that looks absolutely like the legitimate one.”
4. Don’t follow links
Although telecommunication providers such as Telstra have taken steps to block millions of scam calls from reaching your device, you also need to be aware of risks yourself.
“[Scammers] can create emails that look like it’s come from Netflix, 100 per cent,” Ms Jayne said.
She said it’s worth spending an extra 30 seconds manually searching for a website, rather than following a link that could lead to a scam website or could install malicious software on your device.
For example, an email attachment that instructs you to open with a double click could deploy malicious software.
This could take over your camera, manage things on your device, and give cybercriminals access to everything in your system.
“The … cybercriminals pretty much have access to … all your details, passwords, banking, email, the works,” she said.
“It’s ridiculously scary.”
5. Pause for a moment
If an email or SMS triggers an emotional response making you want to buy something as soon as possible, Ms Jayne said you should take some time to think the purchase through.
While this approach might mean you lose out on a legitimately good bargain, she said online shoppers need to put more thought into their actions.
Ms Jayne said although online shopping is “fraught with danger”, it’s important to support retailers, especially local ones that might have done it tough during the pandemic.
“I hope everybody finds some really good deals, because there’s a whole lot out there that are really good and legitimate,” she said.
“It’s just a shame we need to navigate the scammers along the way.”