Scammers are unrelenting. And smart. They’re active right throughout the year. This means there’s no particular season when online marketplace and classified site owners need to be extra vigilant. The pressure’s always on them to maintain user safety.

However, scammers know when and how to tailor their activities to maximise opportunities. That’s why they’ll often latch onto different events, trends, seasons, sales, and other activities throughout the year – using a variety of techniques to lure in users, under the guise of an offer or piece of information.

With so much going on in 2020 – from the Tokyo Olympics to US election – scammers will almost certainly be more active than usual. Here’s what consumers and marketplaces need to be aware of this year.

If you want to learn more about the specific scam spikes, visit our scam awareness calendar where we predict spikes on a month-by-month basis.

Holiday Bookings

When the nights draw in and temperatures drop, many begin to dream of sunnier climes and set about searching for their next holiday.

But whether it’s a summer booking or winter getaway, price is always an issue. Cue thousands of holiday comparison sites, booking portals, and savings sites. While many of these are legitimate outfits, often the convoluted online booking experience – as a consequence of using aggregation sites – can confuse would-be travellers.

They’re right to be cautious. As with buying any other goods or services online, even the most reputable travel sites can fall victim to scammers – with scammers advertising cheap flights, luxury lodgings at 2 Star prices, and also offering ‘free’ trips (before being lured into attending a pressured timeshare sales pitch).

If in doubt, customers should always book the best-known travel sites, pay using their verified portal (rather than a link sent via email or direct bank transfer) to ensure that the company that they actually pay for their holiday is accredited by an industry body (such as ATOL in the UK).

Seasonal Scams

From Valentine’s Day to Easter; Halloween to Hanukkah – seasonal scams return with perennial menace year-after-year. Designed to capitalise on themed web searches and impulse purchases, fraudsters play the same old tricks – and consumers keep falling for them.

Charity scams tend to materialise around gift-focused holidays, like Thanksgiving in the US, as well as at Christmas. Anyone can fall victim to them – such as the recent case of NFL player, Kyle Rudoph, who gave away his gloves after a high scoring game for what he thought was a charity auction; only to discover they were being sold on eBay a few days later.

Another popular seasonal scam is phishing emails offering limited-time discounts from well-known retailers, as well as romance scams (catfishers) in which some are prepared to cultivate entire relationships online with others simply to extract money from them.
The general rule with any of these is to be wary of anyone offering something that seems too good to be true – whether it’s a 75% off discount or unconditional love. Scammers prey on the vulnerable.

Football Fever

A whole summer of soccer is scheduled for June and July this year – thanks to the upcoming UEFA European Football Championship (Euro 2020) and the Copa America; both of which will run at the same time: on opposite sides of the World.

However, while you’d expect fake tournament tickets and counterfeit merchandise to be par for the course where events like these are concerned – and easily detectable. But the reality is that many fraudulent third party sites are so convincing, buyers are falling for the same scams experienced in previous years.

If in doubt, customers should always purchase from official websites — such as UEFA online and Copa America. While Euro 2020 tickets are sold out for now (over 19 million people applied for tickets), they’ll become available to buy again in April for those whose teams qualified during the playoffs.

While third party sites are the biggest culprits, marketplace owners should be extra vigilant where users are offering surplus or cheap tickets to any games at all. Although given the prices at which the tickets sell for, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the real scammers are the official vendors themselves.

Olympic Obstacles

The Summer Olympic Games is no stranger to scandals – of the sporting variety. However, In the same way as the soccer tournaments referenced above, fake tickets tend to surface in the run-up to the games themselves – on ‘pop-up’ sites as well as marketplaces.

Telltale signs of a scam include vendors asking to be paid in cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin), official-sounding domain names (that are far from official), as well as phishing emails, malware, and ransomware – all designed by scammers looking to cash in on the surrounding media hype and immediate public interest that high-profile events bring.

In addition to scams preceding the games, advice issued just prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics recommends visitors be wary of free public WiFi – at venues, hotels, cafes, and restaurants – and recommends travellers take other online security precautions; such as using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in addition to antivirus software.

Lessons learned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang shouldn’t be ignored either. Remember the ‘Olympics Destroyer’ cyber attack? That shut down the event’s entire IT infrastructure during the opening ceremony? There was little anyone could do to prevent that from happening (so advanced was the attack and so slick was its coordination). Still, it raised a lot of questions around cybersecurity generally – which no doubt have informed best practice elsewhere.

Also, visitors should avoid downloading unofficial apps or opening emails relating to Olympics information – unless they’re from an official news outlet, such as NBC, the BBC, or the Olympic Committee itself.

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Probing Political Powers

With Brexit upon us and the US general election set for November, many are more aware of misinformation campaigns, high profile emails hacks, and electronic voting booth hacking.

While those in the public eye may seem to be the most at risk, ordinary citizens are too. We have Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to thank for that.

Despite this high profile case, while political parties themselves must abide by campaigning practices and even though data security laws – such as GDPR – exist to protect our data, it seems more work needs to be done – by social media companies and governments.

But what can people do? There are ways to limit the reach that political parties have, such as opting out of practices like micro-targeting and being more stringent with social media privacy settings, good old-fashioned caution and data hygiene are encouraged.

To help spread this message, marketplaces and classified sites should continue to remind users to change their passwords routinely, exercise caution when dealing with strangers, and advocate not sharing personal data off-platform with other users – regardless of their assumed intent.

Sale Of The Century?

From Black Friday to the New Year Sales – the end of one year and the early part of the next is a time when brands of all kinds slash the prices of excess stock – clearing inventory or paving the way for the coming season’s collection. It’s also a time when scammers prey upon online shoppers’ frenzied search for a bargain or last-minute gift purchase.

As we’ve talked about in previous blogs, the level of sophistication with which scammers operate in online marketplaces seems to get increasingly creative – from posting multiple listings for the same items, changing their IP addresses, or merely advertising usually expensive items at low prices to dupe those looking to save.

Prioritising Content Moderation

The worrying truth is that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the techniques they use. For online marketplace owners, not addressing these problems can directly impact their site’s credibility, user experience, safety, and the amount of trust that their users have for their service.

Most marketplaces are only too well aware of all of these issues, and many are doing a great deal to inform customers of what to look out for and how to conduct more secure transactions, online.

However, action always speaks louder than words – which is why many are now actively exploring content moderation – using dedicated expert teams and machine learning AI – the latter adds value to larger marketplaces.

Keeping customers informed around significant events and holidays – like those set out above – ensures that marketplaces are seen as transparent and active in combating fraud online.
This also paints sites in a favourable light when it comes to attracting new users, who may stumble upon a new listing in their search for seasonal goods and services.

Ultimately, the more a site does to keep its users safe, the more trustworthy it’ll be seen as.

Want to know more about optimimizing your content moderation? Get in touch with one of our content moderation solution expert today or test our moderation tool, Implio, for free.

This is Besedo

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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2016: The year hosting both the summer Olympics and the UEFA Euro Championship. Big excitement is in the air as vacations to France and Brazil are being planned by sport fans from all over the world, and the commercial machinery is going red hot. So are ticket sales: official, second-hand and pure black market.

Ticket Scams: A Growing Phenomenon

Even though ticket scams are far from being a new phenomenon, they’ve been growing in recent years with the increased use of social media. According to Get Safe Online ticket frauds rose by 55% in 2015 in the UK.

Who’s at the Most Risk?

Sporting events like the Premier League or Rugby World Cup account for over a quarter of reported ticket scams, but concerts and festivals are also at risk.
Get Safe Online also reports that 20-29 years old, usually the most tech-savvy group, are most likely to fall into the trap. This only points to how convincing the scammers can be.

person holding event tickets

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Counterfeit Ticket Scams on the Rise

Social media is one of the main sources for scammers to acquire material for their fraudulent ads. Many people are sharing images of their smiling faces together with a newly acquired ticket. We totally understand that this can be tempting, but it’s also a way for fraudsters to copy the barcodes and create counterfeit tickets.
There are also cases where previously used tickets are being sold anew with just the date manipulated.

olympic stadium graphic

Why YOU Need to Take Action

In an attempt to tackle the black market, the Brazilian organizers of the Olympics ’16 will impose large fines on anyone involved in the resale of tickets. As an alternative they are offering an official resale program for the secure trade of unwanted tickets. This means that YOUR site can get into legal trouble by allowing the sale of unauthorized tickets.
An even stronger reason is of course to protect your users. Branding is more important than ever for classifieds sites and marketplaces, and risking a PR-backlash due to false tickets on your site is probably not a risk you want to take.

Scammers however do not only strike in summer, find out what other events you should keep an eye on with our scam awareness calendar.

References:

https://www.getsafeonline.org/news/55-rise-in-ticket-fraud-last-year/

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/mar/21/online-ticket-fraud-social-media-users-warned-twitter-facebook-get-safe-online

https://www.rio2016.com/sites/default/files/users/rio2016_files/atrs_en.pdf

https://www.rio2016.com/sites/default/files/users/rio2016_files/guia_legal_de_ingressos_ingles.pdf

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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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In December and the months leading up to it, the percentage of scam content on classifieds sites rises significantly. This means that your customers are more likely to have a negative user experience when doing their holiday shopping on your site.

Combine this with the fact that Christmas shopping often brings in new users looking for the perfect present and you have just upped your chance of converting a browser to a user dramatically.

But with a bit of planning and some insights into what scammers are targeting you can avoid the worst impact of the increase in fraudulent ads.

Here are three tips that can help you keep your content under control during the holiday season.

How to Handle Scams During the Holidays

 1. Know Your Seasonal Content

What people search for throughout the year changes based on seasons, high profile product releases and global events. For scammers it makes a lot of sense to target items that are highly sought after. This gives them a faster turnaround on potential victims before they are removed from the site.

Usually during Christmas you will find a rise of scams in ads for popular electronics, gift of the year items and winter sports equipment in countries where such a pastime is available.

So the bad news is that you have more scam on your site during the holiday season. The good news is that if you know where to look, it is quite easy to spot and remove, which leads us to the second tip.

a cart full of christmas presents

2. Target Your Efforts Strategically

Chances are you will see a rise, not just in scams, but in volumes in general during this period. You have probably planned for this spike in volumes, either by hiring more moderators or by turning your percentage of automated moderation up.

There is nothing wrong with either of those approaches, but make sure you target your efforts strategically.

If you don’t have resources to moderate all volumes, focus on high risk categories such as electronics, pets, rentals and toys.

Also if you haven’t already, it might be time to look into automated content moderation with a good moderation tool you should be able to automate 80% or more of your content.

Finally, if you are hiring new or temporary staff to cover spikes, you should keep them away from categories with a high percentage of scam ads. Leave that to your veterans. If you do let the new guys lose on high risk categories, make sure that you give them very clear and easy instructions on what to look for.

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This is Besedo

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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Forecasting is key to managing incoming volumes, but in order to make predictions, you need to know what you are looking for. Here are some examples of occurrences that can lead to spikes in moderation needs for Classifieds sites. Note that an increase in incoming volumes doesn’t always correspond with the number of scams you receive. This post will discuss ways of predicting spikes in scam attempts.

Seasonal spikes

Different seasons bring different scams. In order to properly prepare your moderation team/filters for coping you need to define and understand these.

The holiday season

Your users and potential new users will be on gift shopping sprees. A lot of money is being exchanged and people are often in a hurry. This makes it a very attractive time for scammers.

Keep an eye out for:

Read the holiday shopping moderation guide and get your team up to speed.

Valentines Day

The time around Valentines day is great for dating site scammers as singles will be looking to connect with their future Valentine. Instead they risk falling in love with a scammer looking to steal their savings.

Keep an eye out for:

Back to school

Hordes of students just got admitted to their dream education and are now looking for a place to lodge. It can be near impossible to score a place to live in a bigger city making new students an easy target for scammers.

Keep an eye out for:

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Change between seasons

At the start of any season people will stock up on goods used in the upcoming months. A crafty scammer will know which products are in demand and target the ones that can give a quick profit.

Keep an eye out for:

Vacation time

Booking vacation is stressful and expensive. There is much money to be made from stressed breadwinners looking for a great deal on relaxation

Keep an eye out for:

Event driven spikes

Sporting events and concerts

Popular events and concerts sell out fast and have a huge fan base ready to pay premium to see their idols. Scammers will try to profit from this

Keep an eye out for:

High profile product releases

Some brands are exceptional at hyping their products and enthusiasts will often go to great lengths to possess the product on or before the release date.

Keep an eye out for:

Some spikes will of course be easier to predict than others. Seasonal spikes will happen at pretty much the same time every year, while event driven spikes will require a bit more research to predict.

The research doesn’t have to take long though. If it takes you long to uncover a certain event, chances are that it is not high profile enough for scammers to bother with.

Our best tip is to build this research into your moderation process as it will allow you to see patterns that can improve your overall delivery. With this in place you can prepare and avoid seeing your site overrun by scammers while you are struggling to meet the SLA.

Here at Besedo we put together a scam awareness calendar based on 15+ years of experience, check it out to better protect your users.

This is Besedo

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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