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Love Is in the Air, Buyers Beware – Valentine’s Day Shopping Scams


    Every year people flock to online marketplaces to look for presents for their significant others. This year’s ‘lockdown’ Valentine’s Day will be no different; in fact, more people than ever are likely to shop online. As such, it’s important that marketplaces remain vigilant and have the right processes in place to protect their end-users from fraudulent products and sellers during a spike in sales. Especially this year, when there will be an influx of buyers who aren’t accustomed to online shopping and, as such, may more easily fall victim to scammers.

    To give a snapshot of the risks and how dangerous it is to purchase your Valentine’s gift online this year, we’ve investigated listings of popular items on online marketplaces. After analyzing nearly three thousand listings in the run-up to this year’s Valentine’s Day, we’ve found that:

    • 13% of items reviewed showed signs of being fraudulent or dangerous
    • Of particular concern were the newly launched PlayStation 5 and offers of puppies, where 30% and 25% of listings across all marketplaces were found to be fraudulent, respectively
    • 22% of listings for popular consumer tech, such as the iPhone 12 were also deemed fraudulent
    • 1 in 10 Louis Vuitton Perfume listings were found to be either scams or counterfeit goods
    • 17% of Creed perfume listings on one popular auction website were found to be fraudulent

    The research shows that even after any filtering and user protection measures that these marketplaces have, a significant number of the products for sale are leaving shoppers open to losing their money or receiving fake goods.

    When it comes to typical romantic gifts such as perfumes and beauty products, the buyer’s inability to touch and see items whilst online shopping means that it is easier for scammers to get away with selling fake items. 14% of Louis Vuitton Perfume listings were found to be either scams or counterfeit goods. Creed perfume is also a popular target, and on one popular auction website, we found that up to 17% of Creed perfume listings were fraudulent.

    Perhaps most worrying, however, are the listings for puppies. Pets are always a careful purchase, and much more meaningful to the couples that get them for Valentine’s Day than consumer products. Of the 250 listings for puppy purchases that Besedo reviewed in January and February, 25% were scams.

    How to protect your users during Lockdown on Valentine’s Day and beyond?

    In our experience, Valentine’s Day scams start picking up 2-3 weeks before the 14th of February and taper off on the day.

    While many of the items targeted by scammers during the Valentine’s period overlap with goods they’d generally use to prey on unsuspecting victims, there are things you can do to increase security for users during the duration of the event.

    • Monitor popular electronics extra vigilantly
    • Publish targeted guidelines teaching users how to spot and avoid scams
    • Put extra focus on onsite chat messages between users. Scammers may use 1to1 messages to send fake online greeting cards that link to malicious programs or to flirt with lonely and vulnerable users to get personal information or monetary gains.
    • Rentals for romantic getaways. Although this year with many countries in lockdown we expect to see less activity here.

    On top of scammers, there’s also a risk of rising in services or goods you may not want on your marketplace.

    Keep an eye out for:

    • A rise in sex toys and adult movies and services
    • Detective services aimed at catching significant others in the act of cheating

    Whether you want to allow these services on your site depends on your audience, but it’s worth monitoring to maintain control.

    To learn more, read the article 4 ways to keep your users safe online this Valentine’s Day.

    Download the Valentine’s Day Scam Infographic

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    Global, full-service leader in content moderation

    We provide automated and manual moderation for online marketplaces, online dating, sharing economy, gaming, communities and social media.

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