Cybercriminals taking advantage of digital shoppers this Christmas

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  • This Christmas looks set to see a huge increase in online activity as consumers shop and connect with loved ones digitally – nearly 40% of Brits will do more Christmas shopping online 
  • Lockdown has changed the way we shop – 50% of consumers have increased the amount of online shopping they do, with over 80% of us shopping online at least once a week 
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Brits are concerned that COVID-19 means that online scams will be more prevalent, but 42% do not change their online activity as a result 
  • Nearly half of Gen Z (18-24 year-olds) have fallen victim to a scam at Christmas, with over a third (37%) of them losing over £100. 

Cybersecurity specialist McAfee has released findings from its 2020 Festive Season: State of Today’s e-Shopper survey, revealing that while consumers are aware of increased risks and scams via the internet, they still plan to do more shopping online – and earlier – this Christmas. 

Forty percent of Brits note they are hitting the digital links to give gifts and cheer this year, despite nearly half (46%) feeling that cyber scams become more prevalent during the holiday season. The Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend in 2019 saw transactions hitting record highs, with the high street seeing 3.3% YOY increases in footfall.

This year looks set to take a different shape, as shoppers are forced to seek their bargains online as a result of the national lockdown running up to Christmas. Even before the lockdown was announced, 40% of Brits said they planned to do more Christmas shopping online.

Nearly a third (31%) of consumers plan to spend more time online over the festive season as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, opening their risk to online threats as they live, work, play, and buy all through their devices. McAfee’s survey shows shopping activity, in general, has increased, with 50% stating they are buying online more since the onset of the pandemic. Over 80% of Brits are shopping online at least once a week, with 11% claiming to do so every day.  

McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research team recently found evidence that online cybercrime continues to increase, with McAfee Labs observing 419 threats per minute in Q2 2020, an increase of almost 12% over the previous quarter. With activity set to rise from both consumers and criminals, there is an added concern of whether consumers are taking security threats as seriously as they should – with key differences seen across generational and regional groups: 

  • Only a fifth (22%) of millennials (25-34 year-olds) are concerned about cybercrime 
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of millennials do not check whether Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals received via email or text are authentic and trusted before clicking 
  • Over two-thirds of Brits fail to take simple precautions when purchasing gift vouchers online – only 27% check that the link is safe, and nearly a third (31%) simply check the brand name to confirm whether the card is safe 
  • Nearly a quarter of those living in the South West (24%) don’t think about cyber-crime as a risk, but those living in the West Midlands and North East should click with caution – nearly a third of residents from these regions (28% and 29% respectively) have previously fallen victim to a festive scam 

Says Raj Samani, McAfee Fellow and Chief Scientist:

 “Many are wondering what this year’s Christmas will look like as consumers’ shopping behaviours continue to evolve and adapt to the challenges faced throughout 2020.

“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.” 

In order to stay safe this holiday season, McAfee advises:  

  • Employ multi-factor authentication to double check the authenticity of digital users and add an additional layer of security to protect personal data and information.  
  • Browse with caution and added security using a tool to block malware and phishing sites via malicious links.  
  • Protect your identity and important personal and financial details 

2020 Holiday Season: State of Today’s Digital e-Shopper Survey Methodology: McAfee commissioned 3Gem to conduct a survey of 1,000 adults over the age of 18 in the U.K. between October 8-13, 2020.  

Chris Price
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