With all of us spending more time than ever at home over recent months, we’ve also been living a greater proportion of our lives online. In October, a survey was carried out across several countries found that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we use e-commerce and digital solutions. Not only are we increasingly turning to the internet for news, health-related information and entertainment, we’re also relying on the internet to purchase everything from groceries and pharmaceuticals to electronics and educational needs, thanks to greater access, better price points, superior choice and added convenience.
Consumers in the UAE are shopping online more than they did before the pandemic. But with the growth in online transactions comes a corresponding rise in internet scams such as identity theft, phishing, and account theft. Police authorities across the UAE have repeatedly warned of an escalation in cybercrime this year, and the UAE Banking Federation has campaigned to raise awareness of and promote safer shopping habits.
With those alarming facts, it makes sense to remember a few pointers to protect yourself, your identity, and your money.
Stick to well-known brands
It’s a good idea to buy from established, familiar brands when shopping online. Not only do you know what you’re getting in terms of price, quality and returns policies, but well-known brands are also likely to have robust security measures in place to avoid the significant reputational damage accompanying cyber hacks.
Check a brand’s reviews
Everyone wants the trendy new "It" label, but before you buy from a new vendor, drop their name into Google plus the words "reviews" or "scam". Other buyers’ experience will quickly indicate whether their products are worth the money and what sort of risk you’re taking by backing an unknown – albeit popular – label. Look for verified reviews, and remember that few or no reviews should be an immediate red flag.
Check out the brand’s social media accounts
A quick way to check up on a company is to look closely at social media accounts outside of the newsfeed where the ad popped up. Or click on the poster’s name and see where you are directed, when the page was started, whether it’s verified by the social network, and how long they’ve been in business. It’s also a good way to check customer perception.
Carefully examine a site’s URL
While you’re usually safer with an established brand, these companies’ popularity may also make them an attractive target for cyber hackers, who design fake, professional-looking websites to lure unsuspecting consumers. Research shows that such sites have a 45 per cent chance of success in getting you to part with your data. As a consumer, you can protect yourself by checking the URL before you make your purchase. Chances are it’s fake if the URL misspells the name of the company, has an inordinate number of extra characters such as dashes or strange numbers, or has been shortened.