The demand for online shopping is rising during the Covid-19 pandemic. More shoppers are now buying online as they avoid going out. This rising demand for e-shopping is being used by scammers to scam people using look-alike e-commerce websites, the FBI has warned.
According to the announcement, these fraud websites are being advertised on social media platforms and search engines. Items available at these websites are priced ‘consistently lower’ than other online retailers – luring buyers to place orders and pay via online money transfer.
Beside copying content from authentic websites, scammers are using valid contact details obviously not associated with the fake websites – to make these websites look legitimate. These websites use cheap top-level domains like .club and .top – which are available for as low as $1.67 while this is being written.
A recent survey found phishing to be the leading type of Covid-19 fraud. Such scams usually take advantage of our short attention span to make us believe something is legitimate.
To avoid being cheated, online shoppers should adopt a habit of typing the URLs of websites instead of clicking random links. If you are using a search engine to look for products, make sure you are clicking correct links and avoid links marked as ‘ad.’
Instead of placing an order in a hurry, take a moment to check the website’s HTTPS certificate by clicking the padlock in your browser. Online retailers, banks etc. use an Extended Validation certificate that proves the legal entity of the owner. Fake websites will usually have a free HTTPS certificate to make a website look ‘trustable.’
Modern web browsers and some ad-blockers have the ability to warn you when you try to visit a fraudulent website. But these measures don’t help much when websites are fairly new and not reported yet as fake.