It’s safer than ever to browse and shop online. But consumers aren’t completely protected against the dangers of the web. There are still security threats that face everyday e-commerce consumers.
As an online consumer, you have to be aware of the myriad of ways that your personal information can be stolen. As an e-commerce seller, you want to understand the threats that are worrying consumers, so you can work to resolve these issues in your online store.
So what are the e-commerce security threats that consumers are facing today, and what can you do about them?
1. Phishing and Spoofing
People are generally more aware of fake emails that try to get you to click on links that install viruses and malware on your computer. But modern phishing emails are more subtle than that. Their goal isn’t always to send viruses to your computer. They want a bigger fish: they want your identity.
So spammers may send you a spoof email, pretending to be from eBay or Amazon. They’ll ask you to input your login information to their site to receive some sort of deal or see your purchases. You click the link and input your username and password. Now, this spamming third party has your account information. They can quietly hack in to steal your credit card info and address, or they may even purchase items through your account.
What can you do to reduce your risk of being a victim of phishing?
- Install anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer. See ITProPortal’s best anti-virus software of 2019 here.
- Look at the email address of sellers before opening or clicking links. Real emails usually have an @companyname.com address, like @amazon.com or @ebay.com. If it says something like, email@example.com, it’s probably a spoof.
- Set up your email box to tag spam and potential threats.
- Opt-in for credit card and bank alerts, so you’re alerted right away to all purchases—including ones you haven’t made on your online accounts.
Image via Mashable
2. False or Counterfeit Products
Although online companies have cracked down on counterfeit goods and false sellers, there are still some spammers and threats that consumers should watch out for. In fact, fake sellers are the legitimate seller's biggest nemesis. Customers are still wary of some sellers and goods on third-party platforms like eBay and Amazon, so they are sometimes hesitant to buy from smaller businesses—which makes it harder for sellers to get involved.
Buying false products can be a surprisingly serious threat to consumer safety. You might buy a product thinking it’s the original, but you end up paying for a much lower quality item. This not only loses money, but it can also be detrimental to health and safety.
For example, you order a curling iron on Amazon. The original item has great reviews on its listing, and people love this product. You order it, but you accidentally order it from a seller who is selling it for $1 less than the original brand. You get the curling iron in the mail, and it looks fine. But you turn it on, and it starts smoking before bursting into flames. It doesn’t seem that much different on paper, but one dollar could be seriously dangerous.
Plus, these fake sellers often shut down after they’ve made a few hundred sales. They make money on selling low-quality counterfeit goods, and then they disappear before doing it on someone else’s listing. So it’s hard to make a claim against the counterfeit seller if they’re already vanished by the time you get the product in the mail.
How can customers determine if it’s a false or counterfeit product?
- Look at the seller name. Do they have the same brand name as the product they’re buying? Is their brand name slightly different (like Corgate selling Colgate toothpaste)?
- Look at the seller’s info. Do they have good reviews? What other products do they sell? Be specific about the seller, not just the product.
- Look for the seller’s personal website. Most legitimate businesses will also have a personal website or social media presence.
- Keep all receipts and reach out to Amazon or another platform (or the original brand) if something is wrong with your product.
3. Server insecurity
Customers are inputting their private information—like address, full name, and credit card information— into e-commerce websites with the trust that their info will be kept safe. In most cases, the information is safe. Legitimate e-commerce companies use secure portals and payment methods to ensure that their customers’ information is protected.
A lot of companies are also starting to offer safer methods, like Apple Pay or Android Pay or PayPal, that streamline one-tap payment with highly secure servers. This allows the seller to accept payment without even touching their customer’s information at all.
Still, no company’s servers are completely safe and foolproof. Even the government’s servers aren’t totally secure. So there is some risk for consumers inputting their information for e-commerce purchases. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy online. Your credit info can easily be stolen at a gas station or your ID taken at a bar too. You’re not really “safe” anywhere. You just need to be aware of where you’re putting your information and have backup methods to keep yourself guarded.
How can you protect yourself from insecure servers?
- Consider investing in an identity protection software, like LifeLock or Identity Force. These will watch to see if anyone has or is using your information. Learn more about the best identity theft protection software here.
- Use Apply Pay and Android Pay when possible. These use tokenization and cryptograms to keep them away from fraud. Learn more here.
- Always look for security banners on checkouts. If an e-commerce site doesn’t acknowledge that your information is secure and protected, it’s not.
Image via StopAd
4. Data Misuse
It’s common knowledge that companies are taking your information with cookies and tracking to personalize product recommendations and digital marketing campaigns. This isn’t a bad thing. Most often, the companies are simply giving control of this info to advertising algorithms that use it to provide consumers with highly customized buying experiences.
Unfortunately, some companies misuse your data. They’ll sell it to other companies or servers, for example. In fact, there is a wide range of websites that exist to capture and sell your information. Your data could end up floating around the web, and you don’t have control over who has your browsing habits in their hands.
It’s hard to prevent data misuse. All in all, you just want to be careful about the websites where you’re going. Only shop on legitimate e-commerce sites and avoid clicking on sites that don’t have “clean” URLs. For example, wi87/wke.com is definitely not as legitimate as sellerschoice.com.
The Bottom Line
Security threats are all over the web. It’s not something to fear or make you go into hiding. It simply means you want to be aware of the legitimacy of your purchases when buying online. Look for secure portals, notice the websites you’re on, do your research, and invest in protective software.
Have you run into any security threats while navigating the e-commerce world? Let us know in the comments below.