FeaturedNews & people

What links the PlayStation 5, iPhone 12 and puppies? Online Christmas shopping scams

Online Christmas shopping scamsBesedo urges marketplaces to tackle fraud and counterfeit goods to protect digital shoppers this festive season from online Christmas shopping scams.

How safe are British shoppers this Christmas? With the country still under strict coronavirus restrictions, 2020 will see record numbers of people turning to e-commerce for their Christmas shopping needs. This will be a huge opportunity for online retailers, and especially for online marketplaces where people will be looking for deals – but it’s also an opportunity for online Christmas shopping scams, with scammers and fraudsters looking to take advantage of a chaotic shopping season.

This year, the online content moderation company Besedo has investigated listings of popular items on online marketplaces in order to better understand what the risks are.

After analysing nearly three thousand listings over the month of November, including the busy Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping weekend, Besedo found that:

  • 15% of items reviewed showed signs of being fraudulent or dangerous
  • This rose to 19% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • Pets and popular consumer electronics are particular areas of concern
  • Counterfeit fashion items are also rife on popular UK marketplaces

The research shows that, even after any filtering and user protection measures that these marketplaces have, a significant number of the products for sale on them are leaving British shoppers open to losing their money or receiving fake goods.

Of particular concern is the PlayStation 5, which quickly sold out after launch, where Besedo’s experts found that a full 22% of listings are likely to be scams, rising to more than a third over the Black Friday weekend. Interestingly, the rates for the competing Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S were just 7% and 5%, respectively – perhaps reflecting the problems some have had in finding a PS5 available for sale.

iPhones were another prominent risk area: always a desirable gift item, October’s launch of the iPhone 12 will make it a must have for many, but 19% of listings on marketplaces were found to show signs of being online Christmas shopping scams. For fashion items, the buyer’s lack of physical contact with the product means that fake items are much more common, with 15% of listings found to be counterfeits.

Perhaps most worrying, however, are the listings for puppies. Pets are always a careful purchase, and much more meaningful to the families that get them than consumer products. Out of the 604 listings for puppy purchases that Besedo reviewed in November, 23% were found to be scams. With the nature of buying a pet being that people might not expect to be able to collect their new friend immediately, this will leave many at real risk of a disappointing Christmas – not to mention a difficult time trying to get their money back.

Comment from Petter Nylander, CEO of Besedo: “This holiday season really is a one-two punch of risk for shoppers. Fewer gifts will be bought in physical retail stores, as we all work to limit the spread of the pandemic, leaving online retail as the main source for gift buying for many. At the same time, anticipated slow deliveries will give scammers more leeway to string along their targets, making it that much harder for victims to know that they’ve been caught out and take the appropriate action. We should all be taking additional care while buying presents this year, triple checking that prices are realistic, that the seller seems genuine, and that the goods are what they say they are before pressing the buy button.”

“Of course, we should also expect much more of the marketplace platforms that we are shopping on in terms of protecting users from potential harm. While it is certainly a challenging process to quickly identify and remove problematic listings, it is deeply concerning that we are seeing such high rates of scams and counterfeiting in this data. Powerful technological approaches, using AI in conjunction with human analysts, can very effectively mitigate against these criminals. Ultimately, it should be the safety of the user, and not the profit for the platform, that comes first.”