Bah, Humbug! – Cybercriminal Scrooges Haunt Online Holiday Shoppers



The e-commerce retail industry will continue to reap in high profits as shoppers shift away from brick-and-mortar stores for their purchases, but cybercriminals are lurking and consumers are starting to worry. This cyberthreat presents a potentially huge issue for companies that rely on the ever-expanding shopping season from now until the end of the year.

Halloween has come and gone and now that the winter holiday season has begun, shoppers are searching the internet for the best deals on the hottest gadgets and coolest toys. But, recent high-profile data breaches have many online shoppers worried that their holiday purchases will lead to long-lasting identity theft woes. 

This isn’t a new problem as hackers have been targeting retailers for years. Due to the increased sophistication of hackers, retailers are one the most vulnerable sectors of the economy, according to a 2016 report by Level 3 Communications.  

Online holiday shopping is a lucrative time of year for e-commerce companies, such as Inc. and Ebay Inc. Companies this year are expected to rake in $107.4 billion in holiday sales, according to Adobe Systems Inc. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving where many believe the best deals exist, will also be lucrative this year--with it estimated to jump up 16.5 percent from last year to bring in $6.6 billion in sales in one day, according to Bloomberg News.

Of the 91 percent of people in the U.S. that will do some sort of holiday shopping this year, 75 percent say they “are either very or somewhat concerned about” a data breach affecting their financial or personal information, according to a recent Generali Global Assistance report. For online shopping, 57 percent of consumers surveyed believe that a data breach of an online retailer is the greatest identify theft risk they face. In addition, 38 percent of U.S. holiday shoppers don’t think companies “are doing enough to safeguard their information,” according to the report. 

Surprisingly, consumers are considerably less worried about data breaches at brick-and-mortar stores like the payment card breach that impacted Target Corp. during the 2014 holiday season. The number drops drastically to 22 percent concerned about brick-and-mortar breaches. 

Consumer confidence in online retailer data security “has been shaken,” Paige Schaffer, president and chief operating officer of Generali’s Identity and Digital Protection Services Global Unit, said in a statement. 

Consumers, however, shouldn’t sit idly by and should take matters into their own hands to safeguard their sensitive financial and personal data, Andrew Bagrin, founder and CEO of OmniNet, told Bloomberg Law.  Shoppers should keep separate cards for online shopping, enable payment card alerts when purchases are made, vary usernames and passwords for each online retailer, and monitor credit reports for unexpected changes, he said.

Don’t get Scrooged this holiday season. Basic cybersecurity hygiene may be the difference between getting an iPhone X or a lump of coal. 

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