How Gender Affects Online Shopping Scams

iStock_000084004429_LargeWho shops online? Roughly 72 percent of women and 68 percent of men make regular purchases with computers and smartphones, according to industry data.

Who gets duped more often in online shopping scams? Depends on your definition.

New data suggest that women are more actively and specifically targeted by cyber crooks for online shopping fraud and, likely because of this, fall victim six times more often than men. But when men get scammed, they lose about three times more money, London police report in a “Cyber Crime Victimology Analysis” that tracked some 29,000 online shopping scam complaints over one year.

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Because savvy swindlers track the trends when they devise new ploys, the significance of these findings may be better revealed in other studies that detail gender-skewed behaviors and patterns when shopping online. Here’s what you should know about how scammers can get you.

Emails: Women are more likely to click on links in emails that promise items are “on sale.” Men are more drawn to email content touting “new products” and “top sellers.” Significance: Those buzzwords — especially in spoofed emails allegedly from trusted stores and brands — can be stealth bait to unleash computer malware via the link or lead to rogue or copycat websites that collect financial account data and/or sell counterfeit goods.

Coupons: Women love them; men don’t care as much. And bargain-hunting women are more likely to make impulse purchases for themselves and others, now or for future needs (whereas men tend to shop for what they need today). Significance: Especially on social media, bogus coupons not only deliver malware but also recruit others. Sometimes, in order to redeem coupons offered by scams, consumers are required to first share the “offer” with others, so they also download malware through that link, or must initially complete a survey that requests sensitive personal information that could result in identity theft.

Reviews, opinions and product demonstrations: Women are more receptive than men to these “social” aspects of online shopping — weighing more heavily on online chats, videos and discussion forums. Men tend to focus on product and feature descriptions. Significance: Ladies, be especially suspicious of supposed testimonials; clicking on links that promise videos is another way to deliver malware.

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Smartphone shopping: Men are more likely to shop via a smartphone, typically during idle time. But women install 40 percent more shopping apps and pay almost twice as much for them. Significance: With growing concerns about “mobile device hijacking” — a term to describe apps specifically designed to gobble up data and drain phone batteries — there’s more reason than ever to use only well-known apps from trusted vendors, to look for complaints about excessive data usage or slower device performance, and to beware of suspicious permissions. Overall, smartphone users are more vulnerable to identity theft, so be sure to protect your device.

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and gain access to a network of experts, law enforcement and people in your community who will keep you up to date on the latest scams in your area.

Photo: alvarez/iStock

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