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Safe Online Shopping: Deals to Avoid

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

As consumers, we are facing many issues while shopping online this year. On top of inflation and global supply chain shortages, additional issues include grinch bots, counterfeit products, and online scams.

Most of us are wondering, is it even safe to shop online? In this article, we are going to have a closer look at safe online shopping practices as researched by iBovi Strategic Cybersecurity. iBovi serves multi-national companies across North America and has observed a series of attacks in recent times on Shopping Websites explicitly targeting Log4j vulnerabilities. In this article, we will take a deep dive into grinch bots, counterfeit products, and phishing issues. Issue #1: Grinch Bots

The term “bots” stands short for software robots. Bots are applications that are running automated tasks online. Bots can be used to make life simpler, however, using bots to buy and resell hot items such as rare sneakers, in-demand toys, and the newest gaming equipment, only makes consumers’ life much harder. Using grinch bots during the Christmas season leads to an increase in prices and many of us will not be able to obtain desired items at all. Since grinch bots are literally snatching up the in-demand items the very second they restock, it makes it nearly impossible for a typical consumer to compete with them. Bot operators use thousands of IP addresses and credit card numbers to avoid purchase limits. Grinch bots’ software can be trained to read and respond to CAPTCHA phrases and outsourced abroad employees can also be hired to type necessary info into the security box. The use of grinch bots leads to hot items not being available in the traditional online marketplace, but the same items can be available on secondary markets, however, there’s a significant price markup.

3 Ways To Fight Grinch Bots

It is important to mention that there is nothing we can do to stop grinch bots from buying out all the hottest items. However, as consumers we can: 1. Shop early! Avoid dealing with grinch bots altogether by shopping before the Christmas frenzy starts. 2. Know the official retail price of the item. This price will typically appear on the official brand website. Knowing this price will allow you to determine if you are dealing with a scalper. 3. Advocate for grinch bot legislation. Stopping Grinch Bots Act makes certain actions of grinch bots illegal, prohibits some popular workarounds, and allows FTC to take legal action against grinch bots. Issue # 2: Counterfeit Products

It is not news that huge online retailers like Walmart, AliExpress, and Amazon are flooded with counterfeit brand items. This issue applies to all the brand products you can think of, like Nike shoes, Shiseido face cream, or Apple iPhone. We are not only risking losing our hard-earned money on purchasing an item with a slightly changed brand logo. Buying such counterfeit items can present a threat to our health. Laptops and phones can explode and even cause danger to your life. Fake face creams can have hard metals amongst their ingredients, causing permanent skin damage. 6 Signs That The Item Is Fake

1. Read item reviews. If the item is fake, there is a big chance that other consumers left negative reviews. Reading reviews can save you a headache of realizing that the item you bought is a counterfeit.

2. Double-check the address of the online store. Counterfeit online stores try to use a similar name as the brand they try to copy. Look up the URL of the official online store and compare it to the URL of the website you are on.

3. Do not buy from “official representatives”. Do not buy from sellers who claim to be authorized dealers or manufacturing representatives of the official brands. There is a big chance of this being a scam!

4. Do not buy from sellers who offer unusual shipping methods. Scammers try to avoid paying taxes and customs fees. As a customer, you always should be able to choose a shipment method convenient to you. Use logic! Why a brand-name company is not able to let you choose a shipment method? If it doesn’t make sense and you have a gut feeling that this might be a scam, trust your gut feeling!

5. Do not buy from overseas sellers. Do not buy from U.S. sellers that reply to your questions by stating they are out of the country for any reason.

6. Avoid discounts on reseller websites. If the brand item offered is even slightly discounted, consider this as a red flag! Many fake brand-name items charge almost the same or even the same price as a “real” item in order to look more legitimate to the buyers. Don’t let scammers deceive you, look up the price of the item on the official website. Additionally, authorized retailers can be found on the official brand’s website as well. If the retailer is not on the list, assume this is a scam! 5 Ways To Safeguard Your Money From Counterfeit Sellers 1. Look at the item! Each brand item and its packaging will use the brand’s logo. If the logo is slightly altered from the one posted on the brand’s website—it is a fake.

2. Do not pay for goods with a gift card! If you’re not sure about the product, do not pay with a pre-paid gift card. The gift card’s funds cannot be returned and you will lose the money. Save the gift card for the items you are 100% sure about.

3. Do not wire funds for the product! All official brands use traditional payment methods. Ask yourself, would Dior ever ask you to wire money for their items?

4. Always use your credit or debit card for a purchase! After you made the purchase, log into your online bank account and see the statement. If you see anything unusual, call your bank.

5. Call your bank! As a credit or debit card holder, you have full rights to dispute any charge. Just by making a call and pointing out questionable transactions, you can get your money back! Remember—your money is insured but typically you have three days to report a scam. Ok, So You Bought A Fake! What Now? First thing first, contact the seller directly. Describe the issue and why you believe the item you received is fake. Attach photos and videos of the item. If the seller does not agree with you, denies selling fake items, and is not offering you a refund, contact customer support of the platform or website you bought the item from.

It is better to call, but it helps to send over your evidence as well. If that fails and the platform is not helping you get your money back, just call your bank! Dispute the transaction, send the evidence, and freeze your credit card.

Sometimes scammers are not only selling fake products, they are after your credit card info! If you see that money has been taken out of your bank account, call your bank and report fraud.

As a customer of the bank, your money is insured, but you have to act fast. Some banks will only refund your money if you report a crime to the bank in a timely manner, typically 72 hours since you noticed your money has been taken out. Issue # 3: Phishing

Phishing can be identified as an attempt to obtain sensitive information: your credit card info, SSN, passwords. Phishing is common while you shopping online, opening websites and clicking on pop-up windows, donating to charity, etc. Phishing happens more often during holiday season.

7 Ways to Identify Phishing 1. Phishing can be veiled as an offer that is too good to be true. 2. Phishing tells you something is wrong with your device and you need help. 3. Phishing asks you for a payment. 4. Phishing can have poor grammar and spelling. 5. Phishing tells you to act fast, without thinking. 6. Phishing comes from unknown websites and emails. 7. Phishing wants your sensitive information.

Victim of Phishing? Follow These 5 Steps 1. Call your bank immediately! Tell customer support what happened. 2. Freeze your bank account. That way scammers can’t use your credit card for online shopping. 3. Contact the real company scammers are impersonating. They will be interested in this information. 4. Change your passwords. Use a completely different and longer passwords. 5. Use multi-factor authentication. This will help with encrypting your personal information. 6. Report to FTC. FTC would love to hear about your case and help prevent further actions by the scammers.

Still having Cybersecurity concerns on a certain website? Need a trusted partner to validate and assure Website Security? iBovi Strategic Cybersecurity provides multi-layered cybersecurity protections to organizations around the world. From Penetration Testing, Vulnerability Assessment, Cybersecurity Monitoring and more, iBovi Strategic Cybersecurity provides a plethora of Cybersecurity services for large scale enterprises around the world. They also provide Managed Services for small and mid-sized organizations focused on prioritizing cost-effective multi-layered solution. What are you waiting for? Contact us and secure your business right away! Visit us at

A woman looking online through her tablet, the cybersecurity measures she can  take.
Do Safe Online Shopping, Check The Threats


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