Online Shopping Scams 2021. What are they and how do we avoid them?
With safety protocols still in place, online banking and other forms of online transactions surely bring convenience to the next level. It gives us the ability to settle banking transactions, shop for basic (and non-basic) needs, and apply for loans within the comfort and safety of our homes.
But with the booming digital economy comes the dangers of scams such as identity theft, phishing, and prize scams. Hackers and cyberthieves took advantage of the pandemic and the development of new online banking systems to create new ways to tailor-fit traps to rip you off of your money.
These online scams are designed in ways that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to get your money back or catch the criminals.
What are online scams?
Online scams are basically any act by a person or a group of people who use the internet to deceive unsuspecting victims to take their money in various ways. Hackers and cyberthieves get your information and habits through your digital footprint (search history, Lazada purchases, etc.).
Why should you be careful?
They tailor-fit traps in order to make you spend money on seemingly good deals that you won’t ever receive. Through these seemingly harmless deals, hackers or cyberthieves get your credit card or personal information so they can either steal from you or make transactions on your behalf without your knowledge.
Regardless of the method, hackers and cyberthieves have one goal: to get your money.
Different types of online scams?
Hackers or cyberthieves gather your basic information to either set up a new account or access your existing account to change settings and lock you out of your own accounts. They also use this information to pretend to be you to defame, defraud, or extort you of you of your hard-earned money.
In worse cases, they get your bank information such as credit and debit cards to make transactions on your behalf. Sometimes, the transactions are so small that you might think nothing of them. Other times, however, victims experience really expensive purchases to the point that they stay in debt for the rest of their lives. In the Philippines alone, 6.5% in every 1000 Filipinos have experience in having their identities stolen online.
You may have heard of it before, since Phishing is the most common online scam these days. In fact, it dominates cybercrimes in the country with the National Bureau of Investigation NBI-Cyber Crimes Division (NBI-CCD) reporting a 200% increase in Phishing cases from March to July 2020 (Rappler, 2020).
Phishing happens when someone poses as a legitimate individual or organization to get your basic personal information to rip you off your money. They usually send you an email about something alarming such as your bank account has been hacked and you have to click a link to report suspicious activity. Then the link would capture your information such as passwords, credit card information, address, etc.
This information can be used for other scams later on, such as fake credit cards under your name, fake IDs, and other malicious activities set to cause damage to your image and reputation.
As the name suggests, you receive a message through text or email about supposedly winning a prize from somewhere, in order to capture your information.
One common example is receiving a text message from someone saying you’re one of the random winners of an iPhone 12 from Shopee or Lazada. You have to click the link in the message where you can indicate the mailing address so you can receive your prize. Then you will be asked to put your credit card information to pay the shipping costs of your prize.
No matter how enticing this may sound, do not give in to their offers on the pretense of “subukan lang natin, wala namang mawawala.” Because we may be losing a lot in the future despite these offers seeming harmless now.
Online Shopping Scams
Overpayment and fake online shopping sites are some of the most common forms of online shopping scams.
Overpayments happen when an online store marks up an item and puts it on sale at the same or slightly higher price than its original price tag, while fake online shopping sites pose as legitimate sellers or resellers. Though certain merchant platforms like Lazada and Shopee implement stringent protocols to make sure that all sellers in the platform are legitimate, you still have to be vigilant when it comes to your online purchases.
The seller and items may seem legit, but also double check whether the items they are reselling are legitimate by cross-checking in different merchant platforms or if the items are sold at a higher price. If the items are priced too low from its original price (e.g. laptops, iPhones, etc.), the higher the chances that it is a scam.
This is more cruel if you think about it, as romance scams not only swindle you of your money, but romance scammers also rip you off of your time and emotional investment. This type of scam involves Individuals who would randomly establish a romantic relationship with you then start asking you for money for certain items, in the name of “love”.
At first, the amount would seem harmless. It can start with a “babe, pa-load naman ng 50.” Then the amount would start going higher and higher.
In worse cases, they would ask to meet and rob you of your possessions once you’re alone.
We’re all too familiar with ransomware attacks from Start Up (episode 14, Netflix). Though some of you may think that you may not lose that much data, these hackers and cyberthieves may collect sensitive information about you and harass you into giving them money in exchange for your data or information.
It usually starts with an email or an offer from a seemingly legitimate anti-virus software. Once you click on the email, it triggers the installation of the malware into your computer and the malware quickly spreads through your files. This is called a Malware Scam.
In a similar case, Ransomware starts as Malware that spreads through your computer then encrypts your files so you won’t be able to access them.
How to avoid online scams?
To be sigurista would take you a long way. Asking questions and not taking offers at face value always helps when you want to avoid scams.
- Never share information with anyone, especially to strangers, who communicate with you through unofficial channels. Receiving a call from the bank out of the blue may seem suspicious, so ask questions such as the nature of the call, get the name of the caller, and the reason why are they calling you. If they are offering promos that require your personal information, visit the closest branch to confirm whether the promos are legitimate.
- When you get an email from an unknown source, check the email address, not just the name of the sender. The email address should either be a public email domain such as @google.com, @microsoft.com, or @yahoo.com. If you are unsure, the email domain should be an existing website created by a legitimate registered business or organization.
- Change your passwords on a regular basis.
- Validate the DTI Registration of promo prizes and do not share your credit card information to claim such prizes.
- When shopping online, double check promos and item prices from other sources. For example, a reseller puts Brand X kitchenware set on sale for P1,000 from the original price of P2,500 for the 6.6 sale. Before checking out the items from your cart, check Brand X website for the actual price of the kitchenware you want. You can also check other sellers or merchants for their prices.
- Do not give money to people you do not know, even if it’s in the name of love. It is especially suspicious when they would give out reasons every time you wish to meet up. Ask a lot of questions to validate a person’s identity and what their motives are when they approach you in cyberspace.
- Similar to avoiding phishing scams, be on the lookout for suspicious emails from unknown sources. Aside from the email address, also check the content of the email. Malware/Ransomware scams are usually hidden under badly written emails. Misspelled words are also common in these emails. And never click on any link from these emails without checking the link source.
- Never save your passwords in public access computer browsers.
- When you’re using a public access computer, do not forget to log out of your social media and other accounts. Then clear the browser history.
- Check seller’s SEC, BIR, and DTI registrations as well as other customer reviews before checking out items from online shopping stores to make sure they are legitimate and items are quality goods.
So, think before you click! Taking a few seconds to think about seemingly good deals can save you a lot of time and money from online shopping scams. Check company’s SEC, BIR, and DTI registrations as well as other customer reviews before checking out items.