Online Shopping Scams: Are Your Customers at Risk?

The holiday season is ending, and every day is make or break in the quest for record-breaking profits during this short window of opportunity. Unfortunately, opportunity is also knocking for cyber thieves who leverage holidays to scam the unsuspecting.

More than likely, some of these unfortunate victims may be your customers or clients who make most of their purchases online during the many holiday-related events, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a host of others.

But you can protect them and your business' reputation by understanding how scammers work and taking steps to mitigate their efforts. Here's what you need to know.

Online Scammers Are Chameleons

Cyber thieves succeed by changing their looks to match their environment. In the case of online shopping, they'll use a tactic commonly known as brand impersonation. With an eye for detail, they'll study your website and online ads or emails.

With a clear sense of how your business represents itself online, they'll create emails that look, sound, and interact with consumers like yours. In some extraordinary cases, they may even build lookalike websites to lure unsuspecting customers and harvest personal information, such as email addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.

The results can be devastating and lead to identity theft, fraud, and a host of complications no customer should have to deal with.

Exposing the Shape Shifters

Protecting your customers and company from the efforts of scammers who mimic your brand begins with education. While it's impossible to turn every customer into a human firewall against online scams, it's well within your capabilities to keep them informed of the risks.

Use social media to keep loyal clients and customers educated throughout the holidays. You might start with posts reminding them to be vigilant when shopping online and to make sure they confirm any emails they receive from your company promoting special offers are legitimate.

They can easily do this by confirming the sender's email address reflects yours. For example, if you use [email protected], an email originating from an email address such as [email protected] with an offer from your company will be fake.

A send time outside of normal hours is also a red flag, as well as an empty field of recipients or one filled with several names you don't know. 

Other clues include branding that's not quite up to par, such as outdated logos or graphics with aspect ratios and colors that are off.

Copy and tone, which can be challenging to mimic for cyber thieves who aren't copywriters, are also indicators. The email is a scam if the sales copy doesn't sound right or includes typos or grammar errors.

Spam: Scammers, Pretenders and Mimics

The holidays also mean your customer inboxes will be overwhelmed with emails, and some, possibly yours, may end up in the spam folder, the digital playground for online scammers. 

While it can be difficult for customers to distinguish your legitimate emails from malicious ones as they search for incredible holiday offers, you can help set yours apart. Create emails with a consistent look and tone and send them at similar times during the day or week, so customers know your routine. 

Of course, looking for clues in emails that reveal they're fakes mentioned earlier will further help them distinguish your legitimate offers. And if your customers have doubts about any offer, encourage them to contact your business directly.


Earlier, we mentioned that cybercriminals would mimic legitimate websites to further their scams. If you think your website may be one of them, there are various ways you can confirm if this is the case.

SSL Trust provides an online domain checker that reviews over 60 databases from companies such as Google, Comodo, Opera, Securi, and more. 

Moreover, a host of information security firms found online offer varying degrees of website detection and protection.

If Your Customers are Scammed

Despite your efforts to keep customers informed and alert to online scams, it still could happen. While it's unlikely, your business could be held accountable for simple scams, doing everything in your power to mitigate the impact is in your best interests.

This may mean working proactively with the proper authorities to warn prospects about scams and directing victims to resources that can help.

Creating a customer base that's savvy enough to avoid being victimized during the online holiday shopping season is an ongoing effort. Working actively to do so can help your cause now and throughout the year.