- With more people working remotely and shopping online than ever before, scammers have a captive audience to conduct phishing activity, leading to a significant increase in fraudulent behavior.
- According to the cybersecurity company BrandShield, in the month of April there was a 140% increase in websites registered using the word “Costco” in the domain name and a 41% rise in those containing the word “Walmart.”
- We talked to Yoav Keren, CEO of BrandShield, who provided consumers and companies alike with tips for how to avoid and fend off scammers online during the coronarvirus outbreak.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Americans are going online to fulfill more and more of their shopping needs, and more and more scammers are ready to take advantage of them.
According to the cybersecurity company BrandShield, there has been a significant increase in websites registered under deceptive domain names intended to trick consumers into sharing personal information and credit card numbers. In the month of April alone, there was a 140% increase in new websites registered with the word “Costco” in the domain and a 41% rise in those containing the word “Walmart,” according to BrandShield data.
“We’ve seen a surge in fraud-led activities, phishing, and counterfeit sales,” Yoav Keren, CEO of BrandShield, told Business Insider. “What’s happening right now is that all over the world, people have moved online. People are sitting at home with nothing to do, watching TV, and going on the internet. It’s natural that online fraud would increase right now.”
Beyond just big box stores, Levi’s reported that the number of counterfeit websites masquerading as the denim brand has doubled since the start of the coronavirus. As a result, BrandShield recently partnered with the company to help neutralize more than 150 phishing and fraud websites that account for approximately 90% of the company’s cybersecurity attacks.
We talked to Yoav Keren, CEO of BrandShield, about how brands and consumers alike can avoid e-commerce scams while shopping online during the pandemic.
Check for official website verification
While it might seem obvious to make sure you’re on a company’s official website, Keren said it’s easy to click an outside link and find yourself on a page that looks remarkably similar. He said to look for signs of verification and to double and triple-check URLs.
“The first thing I would recommend to consumers is to make sure they are going to the major and main website of the company,” he said. “So in the case of Levi’s, go through Levis.com and be sure that you’re on that website to check whether there’s a certificate that verifies that this is a real website.”
Be wary of third-party deals or discounts
While most shoppers are always on the hunt for the best price and ways to score a deal on a purchase, Keren said to keep an eye on coupons or other specials found on third-party sites, especially social media.
“A lot of people always look for good deals and think ‘Oh, here’s a 10% discount,’ but be very careful when you [click on these],” he said. “You need to understand that these phishing sites are not just out there, they’re promoting themselves through phishing emails, through advertisements, and on social media through scamming people to post about sales.”
Keep an eye on social media phishing
Social media phishing is a threat that Keren said has been “significantly rising” in recent years, in large part because of how easy and cheap it is to create a fake Instagram or Twitter account dedicated to phishing.
“Usually [social media scammers] will start by posting legitimate posts and at some point will either private message people to perform a scam, or put in a link to a fraudulent or phishing sites,” he said. “It really costs nothing to do that, it’s just time spent for these fraudsters to create these scams online. The cost is nominal. Starting a website today is nothing. Opening an account on Facebook costs zero.”
Know that small, independently owned companies are not immune
Though major retailers like Costco, Walmart, and Levi’s are easy targets for scammers, that doesn’t mean fraudsters are avoiding smaller, independently owned companies.
“It’s not necessarily just a threat for the big companies, it’s affecting small to medium-sized companies that are actually in a sense the most vulnerable,” Keren said. “They have less protections, People are less aware of these threats especially when they relate to different types of companies that are smaller and more medium-sized.”
Double-check suspicious work emails
According to Keren, the rise in remote work has made individuals more vulnerable to phishing scams through their work emails, in part due to the lack of word of mouth that happens when physically in an office space that can help halt colleagues from opening dangerous content.
“When you move to working remotely, it increases risks in different levels,” he said. “You’re losing a lot of the normal interactions that you have back at the office. There, you can walk over and chat with someone from your company and say, ‘Hey, I just got that email from you’ and when they respond ‘I didn’t send you an email’ you can conclude it was probably a phishing email. That isn’t happening anymore.”
Raise awareness of online fraud
Keren said one of the biggest challenges in preventing online scams is ensuring that both the general public and major companies are aware of their vulnerabilities to scamming and phishing in the first place. If you’re an employer, he recommends educating your staff about phishing, and if you’re a consumer to continue to read up on scams and be vigilant when shopping online.
“We feel that making the public know about the risks that are out there and being aware of these activities is important,” he said. “A lot of people are not aware. They might reach a website that looks totally legit, share their credentials, share their financial information, share their credit cards, and then they might fall into a serious scam.”
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