Online shoppers warned as scammers look set to cash in on Christmas shopping bonanza

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Online shoppers are being issued with more warnings about an increase in cybercrime activity in the run-up to Christmas. Security firm McAfee has gone so far as to say that it could result in a perfect storm of cybercrime as more of us make digital purchases without taking adequate fraud prevention measures.

According to McAfee’s 2020 Festive Season: State of Today’s e-Shopper survey nearly 40% of British consumers will be making more of their purchases online. With 50% of us increasing the amount of shopping we do online generally there’s also concern that not enough of us are changing our habits to reduce the risk of being a victim of cybercrime.

McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research team has found evidence that online cybercrime is increasing dramatically, with 419 threats per minute in the second quarter of 2020. That marks a 12% increase over the previous quarter.

However, in many cases consumers appear to be overlooking the rising risks. McAfee’s survey found that just 22% of millennials are concerned about the effects of cybercrime. A further 74% of millennials don't bother to check if Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals are genuine before clicking on them.

Security guidelines

Just as worrying is the way that two-thirds of British consumers don’t follow basic security guidelines when it comes to purchasing gift vouchers online. Only 27% check if the link is legitimate. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed in the South West said they didn’t think cybercrime was a risk at all. Meanwhile, nearly a third of consumers in the West Midlands and the North East have previously fallen foul of festive scams according to the data.

“Many are wondering what this year’s Christmas will look like as consumer's shopping behaviour continues to evolve and adapt to the challenges faced throughout 2020,” said Raj Samani, McAfee Fellow and Chief Scientist. 

“With results showing the growing prevalence of online shopping, consumers need to be aware of how cybercriminals are looking to take advantage and take the necessary steps to protect themselves - and their loved ones - this festive season.” 

Taking adequate precautions to minimize the threat of being a victim of cybercrime is relatively straightforward. As always, the advice backed up by McAfee’s research is to employ multi-factor authentication and browse with caution using security software to help with the task. Consumers are also urged to protect their identities by securing their personal and financial details, again using a suitable software package where possible.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.