Cyber Criminals Taking Advantage of Consumers Relying on Digital Shopping This Holiday Season

McAfee Corp. today announced findings from its 2020 Holiday Season: State of Today’s Digital 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 holiday season. Thirty-six percent of Americans note they are hitting the digital links to give gifts and cheer this year, despite 60% feeling that cyber scams become more prevalent during the holiday season.

While more than 124 million consumers shopped in-store during the 2019 Black Friday to Cyber Monday holiday weekend, McAfee’s survey indicates consumers have shifted direction due to global events this year, 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 49% stating they are buying online more since the onset of COVID-19. Nearly one in five consumers (18%) are even shopping online daily, while one in three (34%) shop online 3-5 days a week.

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 groups:

  • 79% of those 65+ in age believe there is a greater cyber risk due to COVID-19 while less (70%) of those 18-24 state the same
  • 27% of respondents ages 18-24 report checking if emailed or text messaged discounts and deals sent to them are authentic

“Many are wondering what this year’s holiday season will look like as consumer shopping behaviors continue to evolve and adapt to the challenges faced throughout 2020,” said Judith Bitterli, VP of Consumer Marketing. “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 holiday season.”

This juxtaposition of increased online activity from both consumers and cybercriminals serves as the perfect catalyst for misdeeds, especially as 36% of consumers note that while they are aware of risks, they plan to increase their holiday online shopping. This less-than-cautious approach is further seen when respondents are offered deals or discounts, with less than half (43%) checking to see if Black Friday or Cyber Monday emails and text messages sent are authentic and trustworthy.

Additionally, as the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports 54% of consumers wish to receive gift cards this holiday season, McAfee’s survey proved that 35% of respondents plan to fulfill this request by purchasing more online gift cards this year. With this alignment set to occur, there are potentially negative implications as 25% of respondents automatically assume gift card links are safe and don’t always take the necessary steps to ensure legitimacy.

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