Since the beginning of the lockdown in late March, in an effort to adhere to social distancing, South Africans have changed the way they purchase everyday essentials.
From groceries to household items such as furniture and garden tools – online shopping has proven to be a perfect solution during a time when physical interaction should be limited.
“During the lockdown, I have definitely increased my online shopping, not just groceries but other household items. I have also increased my online shopping for my mum who lives alone and away from me. I also have groceries delivered to her quite regularly, which is something that definitely didn’t happen before,” says one of the consumers.
While this has certainly helped to flatten the COVID-19 curve, increased online activity has placed many unsuspecting consumers at risk of being defrauded.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and one of the focuses of this campaign is on ways to keep consumers’ data protected while spending online.
Retail sales at online shopping website OneDayOnly increased by 100% with an uptake in first-time user sales, during the lockdown.
With Black Friday around the corner and many shoppers gearing themselves up for the sale frenzy, spokesperson for the company, Matthew Leighton, provides some safety tips to prevent shoppers from falling victim.
“Loads of people are shopping online as it’s a viable option to get your everyday goods as opposed to going into a retail store. Don’t go to any stranger websites that look unusual and make your password as strong as possible. When it comes to safety, the difference with a mobile app is that your details are housed right on your device, websites keep information online, most online companies make use of third-party payment systems which is a long way of saying we don’t handle your credit card details. They get stored somewhere else, they are under encryption.”
Most major retailers have launched mobile apps that make online shopping as easy as a few clicks on your mobile device. This is considered far safer than web purchases, as your data is housed on your device as opposed to websites. Chief Executive Officer of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre or SABRIC, Nischal Mewalall, explains the latest techniques that scammers are using to solicit banking information from online shoppers that use websites.
“ The advent of COVID has actually resulted in a massive increase in the number of fishing exercises that are taking place. We also recently are seeing an increase in vishing exercises, in order to solicit your personal information to perform certain online transactions. What you should watch out for is receiving an SMS or call from somebody requesting you to give out such information. Fake websites, this is a real, real problem. Currently, the ones that are doing rounds, you would get a call from somebody – who is purporting to be a member in your bank, and he is working in the fraud department and warning you that a fraudulent transaction is taking place on your account.”
Meanwhile, Business Development Manager at CyberTechSA, an online security company, Frans Marx, says social media is also being used as a tool to lure users to unsafe online shopping websites. He warns shoppers to avoid using public or shared Wi-Fi where their personal data is not protected.
“People are using social media to access shopping sites etc, we have seen an increase in social engineering which is the act of tricking someone into divulging information that they typically would not and lure people into a false sense of security. Typically start with yourself, look at the offer. Look at what you are engaging with, if its too good to be true then rather be worried. Also, a lot of people are connecting to their websites using their own home internet; make sure that the channel is secure. It’s for the consumer to hold the retailer responsible; it’s the retailers’ responsibility to ensure that your data is protected and secure.”
As online shopping in South Africa is expected to soar, consumers are being warned to remain vigilant. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Consumers are urged to have strong passwords, to not open suspicious sites and refrain from sharing banking information over the phone.