How to outsmart criminals abusing the online shopping experience this holiday season

The biggest retail season of the year is around the corner, and you do not even need to leave the comfort of your home to participate. But neither do the criminals.

Easy website design, increased social media traffic, and convenience have made buying and selling online products a pillar of the modern shopping experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven even more consumers to turn online to make purchases. 

For businesses, this trend poses both challenges and significant opportunities. More sales and more traffic all 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 be prepared?  Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre has put together some pointers to get you started: 

  • Know your product: some products are riskier to sell than others. For example, selling easily resalable small items that are already in demand is riskier than personally designed items.
  • Know your customer: If you accept card payments and ship valuable goods to your customers, you would want to know who you are sending the items to, wouldn’t you? 
  • Establish a safe means of payment: Your card processor can advise you. Choosing a safe means of payment will limit the risk of fraud. 
  • Use a reliable delivery service: choose a delivery method where you can be sure of the professional handling of your merchandise and possible non-delivery dispute claims.

Through a new awareness campaign, law enforcement across 16 countries have teamed up with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Merchant Risk Council to share practical advice on how to outwit criminals trying to abuse the online shopping experience.  This year’s campaign has a special focus on e-merchants, helping them better identify fraud on their platforms and empowering them to take steps to protect their business and customers against such attacks.

The threat posed by these criminals is very real: in the lead up to this campaign, a number of countries carried out operational actions which resulted in the arrest of 22 such e-fraudsters in the month of October alone. 

Edvardas Šileris, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) said: “Peak season for cybercriminals and fraudsters is just around the corner. Often, businesses will not realise they have processed a fraudulent transaction until weeks or even months later. This is why e-commerce fraud is so dangerous – by the time all parties involve realise, it can be too late to find the criminal.

“That is why prevention is the best solution. Europol is working with its partners from policing and the private sector in this eComm2020 action to protect businesses and customers from such attacks.”

Rules of online shopping

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