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3 in 10 Kiwis scammed in online holiday shopping

Peter Griffin, Editor. 03 November 2022, 8:11 am

Kiwis are being warned to be on heightened alert this holiday shopping season for scams and fraud attempts as they search for deals to tackle the high cost of living.

A Harris Poll survey of 1,001 adult New Zealanders commissioned by antivirus software maker NortonLifeLock, has found that 77% are likely to take actions this holiday season to help cut costs, with 8% willing to click on a questionable link to save money.

Past holiday shopping had resulted in 28% of those surveyed falling victim to a scam of some kind, with the average loss equating to $509. Retailers are gearing up for Black Friday online sales at the end of the month and the start of the Christmas shopping season, but so too are scammers.

According to survey respondents, the most popular Christmas gifts they’ll be looking for this year include respondents name toys, books or board games (40%), smartphones (34%), smartwatches (33%), and gaming consoles (32%).

Non-delivery and non-payment

The FBI has warned that two types of holiday scams, non-delivery of goods and services and non-payment for online purchases will predominate this year and cost US shoppers US$337 million a year.

In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services online but never receives them. A non-payment scam involves the goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid for them. Credit card scams account for an additional US$173 million a year in the US alone.

“Similar scams to beware of this time of year are auction fraud, where a product is misrepresented on an auction site, and gift card fraud, when a seller asks you to pay with a pre-paid card,” the FBI warns.

The NortonLifeLock survey shows that New Zealanders are at least reasonably well aware of the risks:

- 75% admit they are concerned their personal details will be compromised shopping online, and 55% are worried they will be scammed by a third-party retailer. 

- 51% are concerned a device they buy for someone else is digitally unsafe

- 49% are concerned that a device they receive as a gift is hacked

- 47% are concerned their holiday travel arrangements or accommodations are being ruined by a scammer

- 43% are concerned about buying or receiving a refurbished device as a gift

But with budgets strained due to inflation, some shoppers may be tempted by deals that are literally too good to be true.

“New Zealand’s inflation rate is understandably tough on wallets and we expect that will make this Christmas season particularly appealing to scammers. Kiwis need to remain vigilant and be really careful to protect themselves when shopping this holiday, as cybercriminals will leverage ‘too good to be true’ deals to steal credit card details and other private information,” says Mark Gorrie, Norton Managing Director APJ, NortonLifeLock.

“These criminals only require a few pieces of your personal information to commit fraud and identity theft, so New Zealanders should stick to reputable sites to avoid their data being compromised and shared on the dark web,” added Gorrie.

Cybersecurity too complicated

Government cybersecurity agency CERT NZ ran its own survey earlier this year and found that while New Zealanders had picked up good “passive” cybersecurity skills, such as not clicking on strange links in emails and deleting spam text messages, cyber threats only rank 9th in areas of concern and 70% feel confident in their level of cyber security.

“While only one in five people are concerned about general cyber security, that jumps to four in five when you ask specifically about the security of personal information online,” says CERT NZ Director Rob Pope.

“There are a number of barriers including awareness of what to do, how to do it and understanding why it’s important to being secure online. Our research shows that some New Zealanders see the cyber security steps as complicated; and others aren’t aware of the risks,” he adds.

NortonLifelock’s tips for safe online shopping this holiday season:

Stick to reputable retailers: Do your due diligence, including checking seller ratings, and preferably purchasing from retailers with a physical address, a customer service phone number and a professional-looking site. Warning signs of sketchy sites include poor spelling, odd design and slow loading.

Avoid suspicious links from social media ads or unfamiliar emails:  Chasing a bargain? Don’t click on suspicious links even if they look attractive. Stay vigilant and don’t fall for the cheap price tag.

If you get a message, an email or SMS about an item you didn’t order, stop and think: If you’re unsure whether a message is legitimate, contact the business through established channels you can find, chat through their website or call their customer service phone number.

Use a virtual private network (VPN) when making online purchases on public or unsecured Wifi.

Look out for fake websites: Fraudsters may set up fake websites of products that don't exist so they can collect payments for goods that they'll never send. They may even provide “excuses” for a while, so by the time you realise, you might be stuck – out of pocket and missing a gift for someone on your list.

Use reputable online safety tools:  Identity theft is an ongoing concern, with people’s personal data used to take out loans and secure credit cards in the victim’s name. You can choose comprehensive tools from Norton for your devices to flag unsafe sites and filter fraudulent SMS messages. If you’re concerned about identity theft, Norton Identity Advisor Plus provides access to a Restoration Specialist to guide you in the event of identity theft, as well as Social Media Monitoring1 and Dark Web Monitoring2,  to alert you if your registered data is found on the dark web, so you can take action and help prevent account takeover.


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