Christmas presents

If you stray from the big retail communities on the web this holiday season, how can you be sure where you’re shopping?

You might stray into a straw site with great SEO but crappy products designed merely to rip off holiday shoppers desperate for a deal. Or maybe you stumble upon an outfit whose real business model is to sell your personally identifiable details to the highest mobster bidder.

Either way, fraud is on the minds of technologists who have holiday shoppers on their minds.

The Power of Community

Case in point is a simple new tool from the online review community SiteJabber. They are offering a browser add-on (now available for desktop versions of Chrome, IR, Safari and Firefox) that gives consumers a green light, literally, if they’re on an e-commerce site with mostly positive reviews.

A red light? Reviews have mostly been bad. Users can go one step further, if they have time between work, life and shopping, by clicking to read the reviews or even ask questions for follow-up responses from the reviewers themselves or the e-commerce vendor.

“With this increase in transparency, consumers are now less likely to be victimized by scams and more likely to feel safe enough to move beyond Amazon and Wal-Mart to support the thousands of small, honest online businesses that have so much to offer,” said Jeremy Gin, CEO of SiteJabber.

For SiteJabber, the new tool builds off of its mission “to help consumers avoid scams and find great online businesses they can trust,” he said. To date, the site has 700,000 members who have reviewed 55,000 online businesses — reviews that have been accessed by 40 million consumers.

It’s this existing community, Gin says, that demanded the new tool.

At the moment, the only limit is that mobile browsers aren’t enabled and there is no app version.

Fraud Is Big Business

Of course, one tool does not make an arsenal, and with the prevalence and perceived omnipresence of online fraud, consumers have plenty of options, as do companies looking to protect their consumers.

One estimate suggests that 1.32 percent of all retail revenue was lost due to fraud this year, equaling about $32 billion and up from 0.68 percent in 2014, according to the latest LexisNexis True Cost of Fraud study.

Getting back to apps, consumers looking to shopping via mobile apps — and apparently 91 percent of consumers plan to do so this shopping season, according to Internet Retailer Mobile 500 — they are seemingly at the mercy of the app creators.

And given all the news of apps with leaky security trust may be unfounded. That said, e-commerce operators ought to make their apps’ security a foremost priority, if anything to protect their brand, said Andrew Hoog, co-founder and CEO of app security firm NowSecure.

“It’s everyone’s job within an organization (including the management team) to make secure mobile app development is a priority,” he said.

Bring In the Machines

To protect themselves, e-commerce sites have new solutions to potentially give them holiday cheer.

Retailers and banks, for instance, can turn to a tool called Trustev, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze thousands of data points during any given transaction, such as IP address, cart data and past user behavior.

The result is a customer profile that can be fed into an algorithm to detect if current behavior is suspicious and needs to be blocked. It’s apparently a new approach, given that at present most retailers employ teams of people to manually comb digital transactions for fraudulent deals.

For shame. Give those companies coal in their stockings.

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Title image by Paweł Kadysz