Cybercriminals to use fraudulent websites for scams

UK Finance warns shoppers to be wary of fraudulent scams this Black Friday, as cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their attacks

Cybercriminals pose a significant threat to retailers and shoppers alike during the holiday season, as they seek to exploit the increased online traffic and shopping activity. Hackers may disrupt retailer websites by launching denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, which can overwhelm the websites with traffic and make them inaccessible to legitimate customers.

According to UK Finance research, shoppers looking to save some money this Black Friday have been warned to watch out for fraudulent offers, as the total amount lost to purchase scams in the first half of this year reached a staggering UK£41mn (US$51.42m), and over 27% of parents have fallen victim to scams where purchased goods or services never arrived.

What are fraudsters doing?

With the development of AI, cybercriminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in their attacks. Fraudsters will often employ fake websites, social media advertisements, or even auction websites to lure buyers in with enticing deals on expensive technology like smartphones, persuading them to make bank transfers, only to disappear after the payment is made. 

A mere 25% of people surveyed as part of the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign acknowledged always verifying sellers before making a purchase. The recent fraud report revealed that purchase scams are the most prevalent type of fraud, accounting for two-thirds of all cases, with the volume of these scams growing by 43% from 53,907 in the first half of 2022, to 76,946 in the first half of 2023. 

Steve Bradford, Senior Vice President EMEA, SailPoint, says: “The festive season starts early for fraudsters, with Black Friday deals and a spike in online sales meaning more opportunity to con unsuspecting consumers.  With AI being leveraged to make bogus retailer websites, fake offers on social media and scam emails appear even more convincing, shoppers must be more vigilant than ever. 

“You need to place the same level of importance on your digital identity as your in-person one – you wouldn’t hand over sensitive information to a stranger, so the same ethos should be applied online. ”

Staying safe online against potential threats

While even the savviest of shoppers can be fooled by a fraudster, maintaining good cyber hygiene can help to protect you from the majority of scams.

“Processes like multi-factor authentication, one-time passcodes from banks to authorise larger transactions, and complex login passwords all help maintain identity security. It sounds like common knowledge, but many of us know not to share passwords with others, yet we ignore this practice when it comes to sharing them across multiple applications and shopping online. 

“A shared password stolen from one application can be used to break into your other applications. Always consider ways to digital padlock your account and look over any online interaction with a sceptical eye.” 

As reported by the Independent, Ben Donaldson, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, says: “More and more criminals are using fake ads and websites to target their victims. And particularly at this time of year, too many parents who are trying to bring joy to their children are falling victim to these ruthless crimes.

“The consequences go beyond financial because the deception involved can cause real emotional and psychological damage. So, this Black Friday, when you’re searching for gifts for your children and loved ones, take extra care online. Check sellers thoroughly before buying and make sure you follow the Take Five to Stop Fraud advice – stop, challenge, protect.”

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