Here’s how to outsmart criminals abusing the online shopping experience this holiday season

09 November 2020
Press Release
Press Release/News

This News/Press release is about Cybercrime

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New awareness campaign focuses on e-retailers ahead of Cyber Weekend

The biggest retail season of the year is around the corner, and you do not even need to leave the comfort of your home to participate.

But neither do the criminals. 

Easy website design, increased social media traffic, and convenience have made buying and selling online products a pillar of the modern shopping experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven even more consumers to turn online to make purchases. For businesses, this trend poses both challenges and significant opportunities. More sales and more traffic all mean more revenue. But it also means more fraud as criminals have even more opportunities to steal from both consumers and merchants. So how should retailers be prepared? 

#SellSafe awareness campaign 

Through an awareness campaign launching today, law enforcement across 16 countries have teamed up with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Merchant Risk Council to share practical advice on how to outwit criminals trying to abuse the online shopping experience. 

This awareness campaign is being conducted under the umbrella of the 2020 e-Commerce Action (eComm 2020) led by Europol and the Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service  (Bundeskriminalamt). This year’s campaign has a special focus on e-merchants, helping them better identify fraud on their platforms and empowering them to take steps to protect their business and customers against such attacks.

Law enforcement as well as key retail partners will share the messages of the campaign using the #SellSafe hashtag to reach the widest possible audience. 

The threat posed by these criminals is very real: in the lead up to this campaign, a number of countries carried out operational actions which resulted in the arrest of 22 such e-fraudsters in the month of October alone. 

Edvardas Šileris, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) said: “Peak season for cybercriminals and fraudsters is just around the corner. Often, businesses will not realise they have processed a fraudulent transaction until weeks or even months later. This is why e-commerce fraud is so dangerous – by the time all parties involve realise, it can be too late to find the criminal. That is why prevention is the best solution. Europol is working with its partners from policing and the private sector in this eComm2020 action to protect businesses and customers from such attacks.”

Bernhard Schafrath, Detective at the Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service, said: “Over the years, high street retailers have taken comprehensive measures to protect their businesses against theft, burglaries and the like. In the 21st century, online businesses need to take similar measures to protect themselves against threats such as fraud, phishing and parcel mules. The awareness campaign launched today draws on the experience of law enforcement investigations against fraudulent orders of various kinds, and aims to help merchants better recognise and address the security gaps on their platforms”.

How to protect your e-business 

Taking your business online to the e-commerce world is a big step. There are a number of simple measures you can take to #SellSafe. Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre has put together some pointers to get you started: 

  • Know your product: some products are riskier to sell than others. For example, selling easily resalable small items that are already in demand is riskier than personally designed items.
  • Know your customer: If you accept card payments and ship valuable goods to your customers, you would want to know who you are sending the items to, wouldn’t you? 
  • Establish a safe means of payment: Your card processor can advise you. Choosing a safe means of payment will limit the risk of fraud. 
  • Use a reliable delivery service: choose a delivery method where you can be sure of the professional handling of your merchandise and possible non-delivery dispute claims. 

Find more tips on how to protect yourself and your business from e-fraudsters here.

More general advice on how to shop safely online is available here.

eComm 2020 is an operation created as a part of EMPACT Payment Card Fraud led by Europol and Austria. This operation is a practical continuation of the work of the e-Commerce working group, a public-private partnership established in 2014 with key stakeholders, including the Merchant Risk Council, a network of 535 e-merchants worldwide.

The following countries are taking part in this year’s eComm2020 campaign to make online shopping safer: 
Austria; Colombia; Croatia; Czechia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Malta; North Macedonia; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Spain; United States. 

EMPACT

In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycleto ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 - 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant.Cybercrime is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.