Fraud picks up during the holidays when many online retailers get too busy to properly evaluate all suspicious orders. Here are the types of products that criminals have been stealing most frequently this season from e-commerce sites.

Michael Reitblat, co-founder and CEO, Forter

Michael Reitblat, co-founder and CEO, Forter

Online retailers know the powerful impact of the holiday shopping season: an increase in traffic, a spike in transactions, and revenue growth. Unfortunately, fraudsters also know the opportunity of the holiday season: overwhelmed merchants, unable to review each and every transaction thoroughly. Because of this, online criminals bank on slipping under the radar this time of year. But what specific industries and items are most vulnerable to holiday fraud?

Here at Forter we dug into our data on fraud attack rates during Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018, comparing rates to annual averages, to find out what items are on fraudster wish lists this year. Here’s what we found:

Luxury Reselling

Luxury goods are always popular with fraudsters, given they only need to steal one item to cash in on a big payday. This year shoes were the most popular fraudster target in the high-end market. Louboutin and Balenciaga pumps were attacked at almost double their normal rates during Thanksgiving week, indicating a lively reseller marketplace. Watches also remained a favorite target, with the Tissot Collection seeing attacks 2.5 times their normal rates.

Electronics tend to be favored by fraudsters for their steep sticker value and their high market appeal.

During the holiday season fraudsters may have a better chance of reselling luxury goods quickly, as they are popular gifts to give. Mid-range designer shoes and watches are also ideal targets, because while they are valuable and easy to resell, they are not so expensive that retailers scrutinize each purchase with great care.


Gamer’s Delight 

Electronics tend to be favored by fraudsters for their steep sticker value and their high market appeal. PS4s and Xboxs were extremely attractive targets this year, part of a trend that saw three times the typical number of attackson gaming consoles over Thanksgiving weekend. Limited-edition consoles, like the Spiderman PS4 and Minecraft Xbox were of particular appeal, as fraudsters will likely be able to sell them at an even higher price point, thanks to their rarity.

As was the case in previous years, the MacBook Pro continues to be a popular target for online criminals. Fraudsters typically bucket this purchase with accessories, both making their transaction look legitimate and increasing the value of their theft and resale potential.

Keeping Warm

Popular apparel items were influenced by the impending winter weather, with fleece hoodies and waterproof boots taking the top spots. Online items both affordable and expensive were targeted, showing that the seasonal market for such goods is more important than the cost of the individual items themselves. It seems fraudsters are looking to cash in on the value of their stolen apparel sooner rather than later.

The Great Gift Card Rush 

Digital goods, such as online gift cards, are a year-round favorite with fraudsters. Not only are they easy to liquidate, but less information is needed to complete a transaction (think: shipping address) and gratification is instant. Fraud attacks on gift cards increased over the Thanksgiving weekend. With good customers buying so many this time of year as presents, criminals likely saw gift cards as easy targets that would go unnoticed in the holiday rush. The top industries targeted for gift card fraud were sports equipment and gaming, with Xbox digital goods seeing attack rates nearly ten times above average.

It’s a Party

Food and beverage brands are new to the e-commerce space and have not had as much time to put fraud defenses in place. Because of this, fraudsters find the industry easy to attack. Alcohol has been a popular target so far this year, with high-end silver tequila and cognac being the most fashionable. This type of alcohol hits the sweet spot for fraudsters: not too pricey, so they can slip under the radar of suspicion, and widely popular, so easy to resell.


Travel Deals

Airlines offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals saw an increase in fraud attacks this year. Fraudsters capitalized on these sales, knowing that brands may not have fully automated fraud prevention and therefore struggle to review an influx of transactions in a short time. Within this context the most popular flights were domestic U.S. flights, often taking place shortly after purchase, so fraudsters may be able to cash in before their illegitimate transaction is noticed.

Stopping Holiday Fraud

The only way that fraudsters can truly exploit merchants during the holiday season is if there aren’t proper fraud prevention measures in place. The reason merchants fall victim to fraud during this time of year isn’t because fraudsters work overtime, it’s because fraudsters can slip through the cracks more easily. Fraud teams are overwhelmed and unable to thoroughly review every transaction, meaning that good customers get denied more often, and online criminals get away with stealing goods.

In order to stop fraud before it happens, online merchants need to put a system in place that is automated, meaning it can scale as theydo, no matter the number of transactions or the time of year. Additionally, stopping fraud throughout the customer journey is imperative in order to catch fraudsters before they attack. Once a fraudster gains access to a user account, they can do what they please without raising too many red flags. While the holiday season may be the happiest time of year, it also has the potential to be the most painful without the proper fraud prevention strategy in place.

Forter provides fraud-prevention technology to online retailers.