Tips for Consumers and Merchants to Avoid Online Fraud

The growing use of e-commerce is creating a feeding frenzy for fraudsters. As online shoppers make convenient shopping in the summer and start focusing on their upcoming holiday shopping lists, they need to know how to avoid getting scammed.

In what may be a lack of logic – and contrary to stereotypes about more savvy age groups on the internet – the consumers most at risk are young adults rather than the elderly.

Barclays, a UK universal bank, released data in June revealing that people aged 21 to 30 are most likely to be scammed online. Despite this finding, the same research found that the majority (76%) of this group of young people said they were confident they would not be a victim.

However, compared to people over 70, data shows that 21-30 year olds are much more likely to be duped. The majority of scams (77%) occur on technology platforms such as social media, shopping/auction sites or dating apps. This makes young people more likely to become a victim, Barclay’s research warns.

Fraud is a complex problem

“A common misconception is that most victims of advertising scams are older people. In reality, cybercriminals do not discriminate. Social engineering is a manipulation technique used on young online audiences that exploits the ‘human emotion,’ Amnon Siev, chief data officer of cybersecurity and ad quality firm GeoEdge, told the E-Commerce Times.

“In cybercrime, human hacking lures unsuspecting online users into various online ad frauds,” he added.

Consumers are not the only targets of online fraud. Website merchants are also in the crosshairs of cyberthieves, warned Jake Loveless, CEO of web acceleration company Edgemesh.

“I think the main culprit is the fact that identifying and protecting against [online] fraud is a complex problem. If you leave the front door of the store unlocked 24 hours a day, chances are you will see an increase in theft rate. Call it a crime of opportunity,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Purchase scams

Consumers become victims of purchase scams when people buy goods that never arrive or do not match the advertisement. These scams are the most common type, accounting for more than half (60%) of all scams in the past three months, according to Barclays data.

The probability of falling into this type of device decreases significantly with age, consumers aged 21 to 30 being 15 times more likely to be victims. Smartphones are the most common type of promotional items for fraudsters. More than half (55%) of buyers in this 21-30 age group plan to buy a new phone this summer. Everyone should be wary of “too good to be true” offers.

Barclays research has revealed some of the reasons that make young people vulnerable to scams. A quarter (25%) of respondents say they can only go a day without replacing their smartphone if it is lost. Nearly a third (31%) admitted to being willing to buy with a brand they were unsure if the seller was offering a good deal.

Many people assume that scam victims are elderly people. Older people are more likely to fall for higher value scams. But the most common scams trick victims into buying something they never receive, Ross Martin, head of digital security at Barclays, said in the report.

Buyers should remember that if a product is priced incredibly low, it is likely a scam. Scammers typically offer items significantly below value to entice buyers, he noted.

Before rushing into a potentially fraudulent purchase, potential buyers should ask themselves why a legitimate seller would do this. Then check the seller’s website and beware of anyone asking for a bank transfer rather than a debit or credit card transaction. Legit sellers usually don’t, Martin noted.

Content manipulator

Be aware of social engineering and its psychological manipulation, GeoEdge’s Siev urged. Scammers use them to lead viewers to unverified pages, fraudulent schemes and malicious scams.

Emotionally charged ads are an effective, low-tech way to lure users to fraudulent or non-existent product listings, financial schemes, phishing scams, propaganda, and other low-quality landing pages, he added.

“Social engineering is the common thread that connects the most deceptive advertising scams,” Siev said. These ads look just harmless enough to evade scanners and publishers’ internal quality checks, he explained. “Cybercriminals attempt to appear legitimate and build trust with the public online.”

Siev provided five tips on how to identify and avoid fraudulent transactions:

  1. Recognize that there are differences between advertisements and editorial content. Ads containing salacious text or images are red flags.
  2. Do not click on ads with mixed fonts/characters in the same sentence. To circumvent text recognition mechanisms, scammers replace English characters with special symbols.
  3. Beware of cloned sites with errors in the domain name that mimic the branding of reputable sites. They are probably malicious.
  4. Look for fake reviews that attempt to build trust in the offer/product/offer.
  5. Research the advertiser/brand thoroughly before sharing credit card details. Only purchase products/services through verified businesses/sellers.

Don’t take the clickbait

Bogus content, or clickbait, is a tactic used to entice viewers into clicking a link. It’s a strategy that easily hooks people who fall in love with almost anything. Often, clickers end up on malicious websites.

Clickbait uses cognitive tricks to get clicks. Typically, these are emotional manipulation calls to impulsive emotions such as fear, excitement, curiosity, anger, guilt, and sadness. Learn to spot clickbait in all its forms and communicate directly with website owners when faced with bad publicity, Siev suggested.

Financial scams are often linked to new trends like cryptocurrency and government support programs. The goal is to encourage Internet users to send money or share personal information.

“Having recognized the power of clickbait, cybercriminals, fraudsters and broader advertising entities now aim to shock, scare and emotionally manipulate online users through sensationalized advertisements. Fake celebrity endorsements, outrageous claims about medical and financial products, sexually suggestive images, misleading messages are all current staples of clickbait,” Siev offered.

Click Bots works against buyers and sellers

About 56% of website owners found clickbait on their sites last year. Only 9% of website visitors reported inappropriate ads directly to publishers via customer service or social media.

Website owners should keep legal and branding obligations in mind to ensure that the ads they host and the landing pages they lead to meet their brand suitability standards, Siev said. .

“This includes ensuring ad creatives and landing pages comply with truth in advertising regulations, fraud prevention, and other issues for which a site hosting a non-compliant ad could be held legally responsible. “, he added.

For brands, fraudulent activity is driven by monetary gain in publisher click fraud, inflated metrics with influencer or affiliate fraud, or directed costs for competitive click fraud, a explained Edgemesh’s Loveless.

“Criminals are either trying to earn ad revenue with bot-based clicks, gain prominence by generating a high rate of bot-based clicks, or intentionally target competing ads to drive up costs and ultimately waste the advertising budget,” he said.

Self-protection steps for brands

The starting point for brands to protect against fraud is always to measure the level of the problem, Loveless suggested. Often this can be done by looking at the ratio of engaged users to unengaged users.

In an efficient online store, this should be around 80% and above. From there, adding inline protection and an IP reputation system to identify invalid traffic is the next step.

“Finally, brands need to tie identified bad actors to their ad targeting systems, effectively creating a real-time adaptive system to stop serving ads to networks/publishers/endpoints that are known sources of fraud” , he recommended.

As the holiday shopping rush approaches, comes the most competitive advertising season of the year. There’s no better time than now to start making sure every dollar spent on advertising is put in front of customers rather than bots and bad actors.

“Advertising cost base and total capital deployed naturally increases in Q3 and Q4. Now is the time to make sure your purchased traffic is not bot traffic,” Loveless concluded.

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