Russia’s Black Friday battle against fakes

The Bell

The Black Friday sales in Russia saw another huge increase in online shopping — as well as more fraud. Scams included fake sites mimicking popular online marketplaces, and even sellers who tried to trick their own customers with fake discounts.

  • One of the most popular scams targeting Russian consumers this Black Friday was fake sites copying the layout of popular online marketplaces: more than 500 such links were blocked over the past month, Kommersant newspaper reported. Scammers also started inviting customers into WhatsApp chats, from where they pressured victims to click on links to pay for supposed special offers.
  • Nor was it unknown for sellers to try to trick their customers. One of their main tactics was to offer fake discounts — often putting up prices in advance, and then returning them to normal and claiming it as a discount.
  • However, online marketplaces are getting better at dealing with such scams, learning to automatically detect and delete bad-faith promotions. Their main weapon is the ability to assess discounts based not on the price of the goods on the eve of the sale — but on the average price over a longer period. Thus, for example, online marketplace Wildberries uses the average price from the two months prior to Black Friday. These sorts of calculations are made by a special algorithm: it’s almost impossible to outwit such technology.
  • The number of fakes and scams have risen in line with the boom in online shopping.The number of traders selling goods on online marketplaces was 200,000 in 2020, but had risen to about 300,000 this year. By the end of 2021 the total annual turnover in online trade in Russia should be 4 trillion rubles ($54 billion), Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said last month. Five years ago, this was not even 1 trillion rubles.
  • Online shopping growth is reflected in the sales recorded by Wildberries, Russia’s biggest online retailer, which sold 43 billion rubles-worth of goods ($538 million) in the last week of November. That’s 2.6 times more than the equivalent period last year. Its biggest rival, Ozon, saw a five-fold increase in orders year-on-year on Nov. 26, and picked up a four-fold increase in revenues.

Why the world should care: Black Friday sales are not something unique to the Western world. Fraudsters and scammers in Russia are seeking ever more sophisticated ways of plying their trade as the boom in online shopping shows no sign of ending.


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