How to prevent scams in online shopping

Europol has designed a programme, launched this November, that seeks to prevent scams in online shopping over the upcoming high-consumption dates. The biggest retail season of the year is almost here, and you do not even need to leave the comfort of your home to participate. However, neither do cyber criminals.

Easy website design, increased social media traffic and convenience have made buying and selling online products a mainstay of the modern shopping experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has further driven consumers to do their shopping online. For companies, this trend poses both challenges and significant opportunities.  More sales and more traffic mean more revenue. But it also means more fraud, as criminals have even more opportunities to steal from both consumers and merchants. So, how should retailers prepare?

Through an awareness campaign launched in mid-November, law enforcement agencies from 16 countries have teamed up with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Merchant Risk Council to share practical tips on how to outwit criminals trying to abuse the online shopping experience.

This awareness campaign is being carried out under the umbrella of the 2020 e-Commerce Action (eComm 2020) led by Europol. This year’s campaign has a special focus on e-merchants, helping them to better identify fraud on their platforms and allowing them to take steps to protect their business and customers against such attacks.

Law enforcement agencies and key retail partners will share the messages of the campaign using the #SellSafe hashtag to reach the widest possible audience.

The threat posed by these criminals is very real: in the lead-up to this campaign, several countries carried out operational actions which resulted in the arrest of 22 cyber criminals in the month of October alone. The awareness campaign launched in November is based on the experience of investigations carried out by law enforcement agencies against fraudulent orders of various kinds, and seeks to help traders better recognise and address the security shortcomings of their platforms.

Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre has produced some guidelines for traders:

Know your product: a greater risk is entailed by the sale of some items than others. For example, selling small items that can be easily re-sold, and for which there is already a high demand, is riskier than selling personal customised items.

Know your customer: if you accept card payments and send valuable products to your customers, you’d like to know who you are sending them to, right?

Establish a safe payment method: your card administrator can advise you on this. By choosing a safe payment method, you will limit the risk of fraud.

• Use a reliable delivery service: choose a delivery method to ensure professional handling of your goods and possible claims of non-delivery.


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