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Safe shopping this holiday season

5 tips to protect yourself while shopping online or in person

by Julie Missimore

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

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As we approach the beginning of the holiday season, we are excited to celebrate with family and friends, neighbours coming together, and loved ones coming home for the holidays. We want to celebrate and show our affection by giving gifts purchased online, in stores, or at the Grand Market.

But one instance of theft, either cyber or in person, is enough to erase some of that holiday cheer.

A Symantec Norton survey found that nearly 978 million people worldwide were victims of cybercrime in 2017. And in 2013, the Organization of American States and Trend Micro released a report , Latin American and Caribbean Cybersecurity Trends and Government Reponses, that found the Jamaican Government reported a 14 per cent increase in the number of cyber incidents in 2012. While most targeted public institutions, financial institutions were another popular target.

With the number of Internet users throughout Jamaica and the Caribbean continuing to grow, it is important that you are aware of how to protect yourself, your data, and your finances.

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) wants to provide you with five tips designed to help you feel safer when holiday shopping — both online and in person.

SHOP USING TRUSTED WEBSITES

Online shopping is becoming an increasingly popular way to shop for holiday gifts, but with it comes a bit of uncertainty. To be on the safe side, we recommend shopping using trusted websites for retailers and those that you've used in the past.

We also recommend that you use a credit card or PayPal for your purchases, as opposed to your debit card. Both of these will help provide some coverage for you if your credit card number is stolen and then used for fraudulent purposes, as you won't be responsible for these transactions – as long as they are reported to your credit card provider. Using PayPal will also help protect your personal data, as their data is encrypted at the highest possible consumer level.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU CLICK

If your email inbox is anything like mine, you'll be seeing a lot of emails advertising sales and low prices, trying to entice you to shop on their website. Before clicking on any links, be sure to check out not just the sender's name, but the email address it was sent from to ensure it is legitimate. Instead of clicking through a link sent in your email, consider searching the web for the company or typing in the web address, if you know it, to access the website in order to provide another layer of protection. This can help protect your finances, personal data, and keep your computer clean of viruses and other malware.

CHECK YOUR BANK AND CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS REGULARLY

If you are doing a lot of online shopping, be sure to review your bank account and credit cards regularly to check the transactions. This way, if your card number is stolen, you can catch the problem as soon as it occurs.

If anything looks questionable, immediately contact your bank or your credit card company.

PROTECT YOUR MONEY

Are you planning on doing some of your holiday shopping in a store or at the Grand Market this year? Be mindful of where you are carrying your cash and your cards, be it your purse or your wallet. Keep it close to the front of your body, where you will better be able to monitor it.

And we all know stores get crowded this time of year, so if you're shopping with children, talk to them before you get to your shopping destination of choice to determine what to do or where to meet if you get separated in the crowds.

DON'T GO INTO DEBT

As we talk about protecting our identities and our finances this holiday season, let's also think about how to protect ourselves long term. There's no need to go into debt to show your love to your family and friends during the holiday. You don't need to buy gifts for everyone you know, and a handmade gift or handwritten note can be just as appreciated and certainly just as thoughtful as a purchased present.

From all of us at ACCA, we hope that these tips will help keep you and your finances safe and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Julie Missimore is ACCA head of policy — Americas.

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