With online shopping exploding amid the holidays and the pandemic, scammers are looking to cash in

With online shopping exploding amid the holidays and the pandemic, scammers are looking to cash in
Posted at 12:26 PM, Nov 18, 2020

Consumers are already spending big this holiday season, particularly online.

With Black Friday right around the corner and the COVID-19 pandemic keeping shoppers online, consumers spent nearly $22 billion while online shopping between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10, according to Check Point Security Software.

But along with that increase in online shopping, Check Point also says it has seen a massive uptick in scammers looking to take advantage.

In the last month alone, the company says malicious shopping emails have jumped from 1 in every 11,000 to one in every 1,000.

"They're using some of those again less sensational but very frequent terms like 'cheap' and 'sale' and 'percentage off' and 'special offers' to attract folks to click on some of these unsolicited emails," Mark Ostrowski of Check Point Software said.

Scammers are using convincing lookalike emails to conduct phishing campaigns in the U.S. and abroad. One malicious email mimicked an ad for a Pandora jewelry that looked legitimate — outside of a misspelling of "Pandora."

Ostrowski says shoppers should pay attention to grammar and spelling mistakes in marketing emails — they could be a red flag for scams. He also recommends mousing over hyperlinks before clicking on them to double-check where they're sending you.

Ostrowski also says to be aware of seemingly legitimate emails that request personal information or passwords.

"I can't tell you how many times that I get an email — every single week — about how I need a password to be reset that I never asked to be reset," he said. "The one I've been getting the most lately is open enrollment. I get an email for open enrollment for healthcare every week, and I know that we're not doing that for at least another month."

The Better Business Bureau also says it has seen a rise in online shopping scams, and more than 80% of those who fall victim to them lose money.

Many of those scams aren't arriving as emails but are coming up in Google searches and social media posts. The BBB recommends taking time to research a website before deciding to make a purchase.

Finally, experts recommend setting strong passwords for online accounts. Nordpass reports that hackers can easily steal information from accounts protected by easy-to-guess passwords, like 123456. The service says any combination of numbers can take just seconds for hackers to crack.