The ecommerce industry has seen an increase in sales directly related to the coronavirus outbreak, and as a result, more scammers are taking advantage.


“U.S. consumers are turning to ecommerce more during the COVID-19 outbreak due to the fact that social distancing measures and shelter-in-place orders have made online shopping more convenient or in some cases, the only way to get the goods they need,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.


Such purchases include virus protection, including hand sanitizers, gloves, masks and antibacterial sprays. The purchases of these supplies have spiked over 800%, according to Adobe’s analysis. Just March 13 through 15 alone, ecommerce has seen a 25% increase compared to the baseline period of March 1 through 11, according to Adobe.


With increased ecommerce business also comes increased scammers. Many have used the coronavirus situation to take advantage of Americans. For example, there have been scams seen that claim to have the cure and treatment for the coronavirus. There have also been fake charities which ask money from people to go towards coronavirus relief efforts.


According to the Insurance Information Institute, “In 2018, consumers reported losing about $1.48 billion related to fraud complaints, an increase of $406 million from 2017… Within the fraud category, imposter scams were the most reported and ranked first among the top 10 fraud categories identified by the FTC. They accounted for $488 million in losses.”


Here are some tips as to how to shop safely online.


1. Only shop from trusted retail sites


Retailers, such as Amazon, Kohl’s, Walmart, Meijer, Ebay and more major retail websites have good return policies in the case that you ordered the wrong item or if the wrong item was sent to you. Shopping from unsecure, poorly set up websites that have frequent typos and no reviews should set off alarms for you. Signs of unsecure websites include the padlock symbol, which is a green padlock in the address bar next to the website address (you can actually click on this and see more information about the site certificate); the website address should start with https://, the S means secure; and/or a green address bar that certain browsers and websites have.


2. Make sure your antivirus on your computer is up-to-date


What is the point of having an antivirus software on your computer if it is not up-to-date? Antivirus applications have saved thousands of people from scammers hacking into their computer with a virus from unsecured websites. If you don’t have any antivirus software at all, it might be time to invest in it. There are some free ones out on the internet for the taking. While they might not offer full-grade protection, something is better than nothing. When doing this, be sure the website is verified and there are reviews to be sure you actually aren’t downloading a virus on your computer.


3. Know when to bail


If a website, telemarketer or seller tries to ask for your social security number or birthday when making an ordinary purchase, such as jewelry or decorations, immediately hang up the phone or exit the website you are on. Nobody needs to know that personal information from you.


4. Make sure you are purchasing things on a private wifi connection or via mobile data


While nothing is open right now, it’s important to note that you should not be filling out any personal information while you’re on a public network. This means you shouldn’t be sitting in a McDonald’s, using their wifi, and making a purchase and filling out your credit card or social security information for any reason. Public wifi, 99% of the time, is unsecure, which means anyone can access this information over the network.


5. If you can, use your credit card to make transactions


According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, “there are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Additionally, debit cards draw money directly from bank accounts, unauthorized charges could leave you with insufficient funds to pay other bills. You can minimize potential damage by using a single, low-limit credit card to make all of your online purchases. Also, use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay.”


When you make a transaction using cash, there’s no way to track that money to get it back for you if you do get scammed. You are out of luck. This is why it’s important to use credit cards as much as possible so the scammer can be attempted to be tracked down and arrested, preventing this from happening to anyone else.


6. Check your bank statements regularly


Banks often provide the option for clients to check their bank statements online in a summary at the end of the month or on a day-to-day basis. Do not wait until three months goes by and you notice a $5,000 worth of transactions you did not authorize.


7. Avoid sketchy emails


Be wary of sketchy emails that might dodge the spam inbox and go into your regular inbox. These emails might come from a peculiar address and there might be typos even in the subject heading. If you do not know what a sketchy email looks like, take a look at your spam inbox. Do NOT click on these emails, but rather take a glance at them. Compare them to reputable emails, such as from the government and Facebook. What notable things do you see that are different? These emails might try and tell you your Facebook or Instagram got hacked and you need to change the password immediately. Do not follow the link that is provided in these emails as this is a way for scammers to get your password and access your real Facebook account. If you are very wary about this, go into your social media sites MANUALLY and change the password yourself in the account settings. Other emails might try to scam you into buying a metabolism-boosting, immune-boosting magic shake that makes you shed 10 pounds in two days. If offers like these sound too good to be true, chances are, it is. Do not buy into it.