The pandemic has turned many scams into year-round campaigns rather than being reserved for festive shopping seasons: keep your guards up!

With e-shopping platforms using marketing tactics such as time-limited flash sales, more people are liable to fall victim to fraud and cybercrime scams due to the sense of urgency needed to clinch good deals.

When consumers have their guard down, scammers and their phishing campaigns are the ones getting the best deals of all: free money from victims.

Fortunately, there are a couple of important steps that can protect people from cyber fraud. One crucial way is to know how to spot a scam when you see one. This is not always easy: all year round, scammers are working hard to target people with season-specific content that is designed to look as real and as appealing as possible. 

The top five scams you are likely to see

  1. Fake delivery notifications: Scammers are likely to sending fake delivery notifications in the hopes that you are waiting on a parcel to arrive. In Singapore, it has been reported that there were 378 people falling victim to phishing scams last November, with the known example being the SingPost parcel redirection scam. This is why every delivery notification should be treated with a high degree of caution. If you use a reputable retailer, you should be able to track your packages on your own and not need to click on links in emails or text messages.
  2. Fake shopping sites and sellers: We all know how crazy the e-sales can get. There are times when an item that we want to purchase gets sold out everywhere, and we desperately search high and low hoping that we will be able to find another retailer who sells it. Just when we are about to give up, the search engine throws up a site that miraculously has stock! Unfortunately, the odds are that the offer is too good to be true. To avoid falling victim to fake sellers, practice caution when you look to purchase from a new shopping site, and never buy from untrusted sellers. It is not worth the risk!​
  3. Fake gift cards and vouchers: Fake gift cards, vouchers and coupons are another favored ploy of scammers. When you do receive a gift card unexpectedly, remember to question whether this gift is from someone you know, and verify with the gift sender for extra precaution. Another technique is to ask you to pay in gift cards only—this is always a scam.​
  4. Fake charities: When the rest of us are thinking about giving, the cyber scammers are focusing on taking. They will use any means possible, including posing as a charity, to take advantage of your good nature and extract your hard-earned cash from your pocket.
  5. Fake travel offers: With the travel restrictions slowly opening up even in spite of the Omicron uncertainties, we see a gradual rise in people booking flights for their long-awaited getaways. When looking out for travel offers, online shoppers should be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, as scammers are great at irresistible (but fake) travel discounts.

Practical tips to stay safe

Now that we know what to look for, what can we do to protect ourselves and our families? There are some simple practical tips you can follow.

  • First, always be suspicious when you are shopping online.Be on the lookout for anything unexpected; urgent requests that trigger your emotions with tempting offers; and always double check the URL of the site you may have been secretly redirected to.​
  • Secondly, always do your own research before making any purchase. If you are buying from a new site or seller, find out whether the company is reputable, by using trusted product-review sites. Before clicking the “Check Out” button, take time to fully read the description of what you are buying. For instance, there had been a case in 2020 where some very disappointed eBay customers received photos of the latest PS5 console rather than the console itself: they had failed to read the final terms during checkout.
  • Lastly, always choose payment methods carefully, noting that credit cards often provide greater protection when it comes to disputes. If possible, shoppers should always designate a single card for online purchases and keep it at a lower credit limit.

Another crucial way to protect yourself is to use a trusted payment site to ensure that you can rely on a reputable third party to represent you if anything goes wrong.