COVID-19 Chill: Ecommerce Sales Are Up, But So Is Fraud

Ecommerce sales are booming during the COVID-19 crisis, according to electronics payment company ACI Worldwide. But this has driven an increase in online fraud. 

The number of sales rose by 74% in most retail sectors in March compared to the same period last year, ACI reports, based on an analysis of hundreds of millions of transactions. In addition, there has been a 97% increase in gaming. 

“Quarantine has changed lives for all of us, with consumers buying electronics and furniture — to support work, communication, school and entertainment — as well as items such as home goods and DIY products,” states Debbie Guerra, executive vice president, ACI Worldwide.

But there are two problems, one being that not all sectors are rising at the same rate. Here are the verticals that are doing well, along with their percentage increases:

  • Garden essentials — 163% 
  • DIY products — 136% 
  • Home products and furnishings — 97%
  • Electronics — 26.6%
  • Telco — 18.6%



In contrast, the following sectors have declined:

  • Ticketing — 60% 
  • Travel — 44% 
  • Online — 8.9%

The other issue is that this transaction increase has been accompanied by a surge in online fraud, both against merchants and consumers.

Merchants are starting to see COVID-19 phishing attacks, resulting into the release of stolen credentials into the ecommerce payments chain, ACI says. 

Specifically, the average fraudulent purchase attempt has increased by $36, driven by the electronic and retail sectors. And the attempted transaction value jumped by 13%.

However, overall fraudulent volume decreased by 8%, because of the increase in attempted fraudulent purchase value, ACI says. 

“The industry is well ahead of the curve in adapting payment methods and ways to combat fraud in response to the changing behaviors and expectations of consumers, which are now being expedited by the lockdown,” Guerra continues. 

That said, ACI is warning consumers to beware ofcoronavirus-themed emails that seek personal information. In particular, watch out for emails purporting to be from government agencies — legitimate institution won’t ask for that information in an email.

Also, consumers should delete emails with spelling, punctuation and grammar errors — these are usually sent by cyber felons. And shoppers should be wary of non-personalized emails — ones that use greetings like “Dear sir or madam.” 

Finally, don’t click on emails that insist on acting now.

All that is true, but not across the board. Legitimate brand emails often communicate urgency. And while it’s a rare occurrence, you can also find spelling and syntax errors in some commercial emails.

Here’s one more minor quibble: That this study doesn’t reflect the sales increases reported in for online grocery stores in other research and the declines for fashion brands.


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