Online Shopping Scams

Background

‘Black Friday’, the most recognised online shopping activity of the year starts on Thursday November 23 but comes along with an increase in shopping scams and fraudulent activities. The Cyber Security Authority (CSA) anticipates a surge in the number of scams such as fake online shops, fake promotions, fake gift card or vouchers and online brand impersonations. As of October 31, 320 cases of online fraud have been reported to the CSA leading to losses of over GH₵ 906,000

Modus Operandi

  • Brand Impersonation: Scammers create contact information on Google Maps mimicking known brands and use search engine optimisation techniques to manipulate search results for the targeted brand with the aim of diverting legitimate inquiries to the scammers’ contact numbers. After the unsuspecting victims engage and make a payment (usually to a mobile money wallet) for products, the scammers block them from making further contact, and the expected delivery does not materialise.
  • Fake Online Shops: Malicious actors create online profiles to promote and sell non-existent goods at very attractive prices. They ask potential buyers to make upfront payments to mobile money wallets with names that are usually not related to the shop or even the seller. After the victims make payment, the expected delivery does not occur, and the scammers block further contact.
  • Phishing Schemes: Malicious actors’ trick online shoppers into disclosing sensitive information e.g., debit/credit card number or account passwords by getting them to click on malicious links disguised as official-looking emails, attachments, and logos that lead to impersonated websites of popular brands like Amazon, Ali Baba.

Recommendation

  • Be Mindful of Search Engine Results: While search engines provide convenient access to information, they can also display manipulated or misleading results. Check on the official websites or with reliable sources to validate the contact details of shops rather than relying solely on search engine results. Also, check user reviews for hints of the reputation of the contact.
  • Conduct Due Diligence Always: Be on the lookout for fake online shops and hyped adverts, especially on Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram. In most cases, request a physical location to enable you validate the legitimacy of the business
  • Limit your online shopping to reputable and well-known stores and stay away from unfamiliar websites.
  • Insist on payment only after delivery and inspection.
  • Be cautious of proposals and deals including those shared by emails that seem too good to be true no matter how attractive they appear to be.

Contact the Cyber Security Authority

The CSA has a 24-hour Cybersecurity/Cybercrime Incident Reporting Points of Contact (PoC) for reporting cybercrimes and for seeking guidance and assistance on online activities, Call or Text – 292, WhatsApp – 0501603111, Email – report@csa.gov.gh

Issued by Cyber Security Authority
November 21, 2023