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Beware Online Shopping Scams During the Holidays

December 16th, 2016 | by admin admin | in Security Advice |    0   comments


Shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts? If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. And a surprising number of people fall for scams this time of year.

1. Secret Shoppers. You receive a text or email from a “mystery shopping company,” inviting you to be a “secret shopper.” Your job is to secretly evaluate customer service at client companies. To test a money transfer service like Western Union, the scammer will send you a phoney cheque. You deposit the cheque, confirm your banking details, possibly keep a small amount as reimbursement, and wire the rest back to the scammer. The cheque bounces and you’re on the hook.

2. Pop-Up Warnings. While you’re browsing, a pop-up window may warn you that your computer is infected. Ignore messages telling you to phone someone to fix it.

3. Fake Store Fronts. Nowadays, setting up a fake retail site online is surprisingly easy. Beware of unfamiliar stores, especially if they do not list a physical address and phone number. Look for the “Https:” at the beginning of the URL. The biggest tip that you’re dealing with a fraud is the method of payment. Never pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card or wire transfer. If you do, you will likely never see your money again or receive your purchase.

4. Online Auctions. A fraudulent seller on an online auction site like EBay may ask you to make a deal outside the auction site, to avoid the rules there. The winner of an auction supposedly pulled out and now you can get it directly. Once you pay, you never hear from the scammer again.

5. Online Classified Ads. A scammer on Craigslist, Kijiijii or any number of buy and sell sites may offer you an unbelievably low price for an item. You pay, but receive nothing. Or a buyer overpays you by cheque, and asks you to refund the difference. The cheque bounces.

How to Protect Yourself Online

1. Ignore deals that are too good to be true.

2. Use secure payment methods, such as PayPal or credit cards.

3. Conclude auction deals only through a legitimate auction site.

4. Look for detailed policies about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution, and contact details.

5. Never pay up-front, especially by money order, wire transfer etc. For high-value items, consider using a reputable escrow service which holds your funds until it receives the item purchased.

6. Practice good online security habits to prevent identity theft:

  • Never share your credit card or online account details with strangers, especially over email.
  • Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for your passwords
  • Update your operating software and anti-virus protection
  • Don’t save your username and password
  • Use secure websites that start with “https”
  • Protect your personal information. Stay alert as you complete transactions.


Plan Your #CyberSafeHolidays: Checklist. Get Cyber Safe Canada.

Calgary Police Warn of Online Shopping Scams Leading Up to Holiday Season. Calgary Herald, November 15, 2016.

SGI Canada Warns of Mystery Shopper Scam. Globe and Mail, March 28, 2016.

Get Paid to Shop. Don’t Get Taken.: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Secret Shopper Scams. Canadian Mystery Shopper Providers.

Online Shopping Scams. ScamWatch, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.

Radius Security Vancouver, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Ladner, Delta, Tsawwassen


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