From groceries and household goods to medicine and clothes, the coronavirus pandemic has forced people to do a fair bit of their shopping online. According to data from ACI Worldwide, in March 2020, online retail shopping saw a rise in sales as high 74 percent year over year. While online shopping is playing an important role in allowing people to stay home and safely shop during COVID-19, hackers are taking note as well. That could be part of the reason why retail and manufacturing companies are seeing the most attacks. It is also why it is so important for consumers to exercise online shopping safety to not expose their personally identifiable information (PII) unwittingly.

Online shopping has grown in popularity and ease of use over the years. The increase of its use due to COVID-19 could lead to a heightened risk of formjacking, when cybercriminals insert malicious code to an existing, reputable website and gain access to its sensitive user information. While shopping the site, the user data is sent to hackers even as the user’s cart is processing as it should with the retailer. According to CNBC, e-skimming attacks intended to steal people’s personal information while shopping online were already increasing before COVID-19. Online shopping amid the pandemic has also led to an increase in fake goods being sold online, like fake cures, vaccines and tests.

Fraudsters understand the consumers’ needs to buy essential and nonessential goods during COVID-19 and are taking advantage. Tenable Research identified an SMS spoofing flaw that could have allowed an attacker to send spoofed messages to any mobile number. While the flaw was patched, hackers could have exploited it with malicious links.

Despite some of the risks of shopping online, there are things consumers can do to practice online shopping safety. People should make sure all of their transactions are at legitimate business websites that they visit directly. If someone comes across any fake products, they should report it to the National IPR Center or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Finally, when creating an account to shop online, consumers should exercise online shopping safety by using strong security questions and answers.

To reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a phishing attempt while trying to shop online, consumers should protect their computers and devices by using security software, multi-factor authentication and backing up their data. These tips could help reduce the likelihood of a consumer falling for a scam or victim of identity theft. If someone believes they are a victim of identity theft or has any questions regarding online shopping safety, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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