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CAC urges online shoppers to be alert

Thursday, March 16, 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — With more Jamaicans choosing to shop online, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is stressing the need for consumers to safeguard their personal information as they conduct electronic transactions.
The consumer alert comes against the increase in the number of reports about fake online retail stores.
Information Technology Manager of CAC, Andrew Evelyn, said there are steps consumers can take to protect their personal and private information from hackers and scammers.
He recommended that persons only utilise legitimate, well-known and well-established websites when doing their online shopping.
He also said the domain name of the site is important “and even though a lot of fraudulent websites will use a domain name similar to a brand name, if a company has a trademark on their name, their website usually matches the company name”.
Evelyn points out further that all websites should have a contact information section. He says if the website does not have a “contact us” page, or it only offers a form to fill out, this is a strong indicator of fraud.
“Any company offering products or services should have a stated place of business (location) as well as a phone number and email to contact them. If none of this information is available, then they likely just want your credit card information,” he pointed out.
Evelyn cautioned, however, that while some businesses might have legitimate websites, they may not have taken the necessary precautions to protect their customers against fraud.
As such, he said, the onus is on consumers to safeguard their information. He advises persons to “not just plug in credit card information in any random website. Remember to log out of (all) websites after using them, especially shopping ones. If you leave it logged in, there may very well be a malware or software in the system that can access your data”.
Evelyn also advised consumers to use a service called Better Business Bureau (BBB) to evaluate websites before they shop.
“The BBB evaluates the website and the organisation for the level of legitimacy and the care that they take in protecting shoppers’ data. The BBB also gives the website a rating, and this rating system is also based on the number of comments and reviews that consumers have logged with the BBB,” he explained.
He said the BBB is utilised by several online businesses, and websites that are highly rated by this service will carry the “BBB” label.  
Vice President of the National Consumers League (NCL), Michael Diamond, also stresses the need for consumers to be vigilant.
He mentioned that in the same way that identities are stolen, websites can also be stolen and cloned to look like the real thing.
“Be alert; if something seems too good to be true, oftentimes, it is too good to be true. So, investigate when you encounter these situations,” he advised.
You can be on a shopping site that seems very legitimate; the colours, the logo, everything looks real, and once you get to the payment screen, something starts to seem a bit odd. Don’t trust that site,” Diamond further cautioned.
He noted also that if there are a lot of typos and mistakes and the information on the website does not seem like it was written by someone whose first language is English, that should be a red flag.
He further encouraged consumers to question everything, even the spelling or phrasing on these sites and to always “look beyond the bargains”.