Even before the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce was starting to become the norm for American shoppers.
But as we've moved nearly every facet of our lives online — from work to school to social gatherings — consumers should stay alert.
"Covid accelerated e-commerce to a level that's five years before it would have been without the pandemic," explains Jeff Sakasegawa, Sift's trust and safety architect. Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated at getting our personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers and bank account numbers, even as we grow more comfortable interacting virtually.
And it's not just a handful of bad actors, Sakasegawa tells CNBC Select. There's actually an entire network of fraudsters operating underground in what the digital safety industry refers to as an "illicit supply chain."
Fortunately, fraud tends to follow some recognizable patterns that you can predict, so there are easy steps you can take to protect yourself.
These days, one of the most pervasive patterns of fraud is content abuse. This is an umbrella term for when fraudsters use clever tactics to disguise online content to look legitimate so that you share your personal information. You probably see hundreds of postings per day on social media, in online communities and on job boards. And while some might seem a little "off," in times of desperation, fraudsters hope you can be easily tricked into sharing your personal information.
According to Sift's latest report, content abusers often work together in networks, forming a whole scam economy that preys on consumers' needs and wants. Fraudsters might post ads for AirBnbs or vacation homes, jobs, bargains and limited-time deals that seem too good to pass up. The branding, photography and descriptions may seem legitimate and mimic the brands you trust and/or processes you use every day.
And given how much our day-to-day world is changing due to coronavirus precautions, fraudsters are hoping you might not detect a bad actor right away.
Take hotel reservations, for example. It's commonplace for hotels to ask for a credit card to hold your booking. But now that businesses in other sectors, including restaurants, gyms and hair salons, are opening at limited capacity, you might find that they adopt a similar model and require that you hold your spot with a small deposit.
As we assimilate to this "new normal," it might become more common for strangers to ask for your card number, making fraud harder to detect.
To protect yourself from content abuse, Sakasegawa suggests following a few time-tested best practices that are still as relevant as ever.
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