Consumer guide for holiday shopping
Shoppers in the downtown Kingston area during Christmas 2019.

With more Jamaicans opting to complete transactions online, the need for protection against cyber criminals is greater than ever. According to fraud manager for card operations at Sagicor Bank Richard Patterson, consumers should be even more vigilant during this holiday season. He said cyber criminals have a track record of intensifying their malicious deeds over the holiday shopping period in the midst of the shopping frenzy.

At the same time, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is warning consumers to be wary of holiday shopping scams and to adhere to general best practices while shopping during the holidays.

In a release to the Jamaica Observer, CEO of the CAC Dolsie Allen said, “You may receive e-mails with tempting offers for the holidays that you cannot resist. Unfortunately, these offers are usually too good to be true, especially if they are coming from a strange online retailer. It is always better to play safe and delete e-mails from suspicious vendors without opening them.”

Similarly, consumers are being urged to read the retailer's security policy.

“Consumers should be aware of how retailers use their data that they leave on a website. Whether you are buying new, used, online or in person, make sure that you are buying from a trustworthy source. It's a good sign if whoever you are buying from has been in business for some time, has good customer reviews, and offers warranties and customer support,” Allen stated.

She also noted that there are certain general shopping tips which consumers should pay close attention to this yuletide season:

-Make a budget.

-Check around for best prices: No impulsive buying.

-Read all labels and manuals carefully.

-Test all appliances in the store if possible.

-Get a written warranty for all appliances.

-If installation is required, it is best to utilise the services of a store or certified electrician.

-Ensure you get a proper receipt and that what is written on the receipt is what you have purchased/received – whether stainless steel, the right brand, the correct size and colour, etc.

-Ask about the store's return policy (if not written on the receipt). Get it in writing.

-Review contracts thoroughly before signing – ensuring that contract terms are understood.

-Read credible customer reviews and seller's feedback, if it is available on the website. These will give you ample information about the quality of the product and how the company or seller attends to a customer's needs.

With regards to online shopping, the fraud manager is offering these tips to shop safely this Christmas:

Shop with trustworthy online retailers. It is important that cardholders shop on familiar and reputable websites that they know to be reliable. In addition, to avoid occurrences of fraud when shopping online, only provide your card numbers on secure websites, usually identified by “https” URLs. An intact key or padlock in the address bar of the webpage also indicates that the site uses security features.

When shopping online, use a third-party digital wallet such as Paypal, Google Play, or Apple Play as an additional layer of security. By using a third-party digital wallet to make purchases, the cardholder avoids providing the online retailer/merchant with their credit card number. These third-party digital wallets act as an intermediary between the cardholder and the online retailer/merchant, which is especially useful when the cardholder wants to make a purchase from a new or unfamiliar merchant. To complete their purchase, the cardholder would be redirected to their third-party digital wallet and login to their account.

Do not click on suspicious links in SMS or e-mail messages that claims to be from your credit card issuing bank as these can be scams or phishing attacks. Examine the sender's e-mail address, logo, and footer carefully, and notify your bank immediately if you think it is suspicious. The bank will never ask for your PIN or other personal information over the phone, e-mail, or text message.

To keep your personal information safe, avoid using public Wi-Fi and devices. Cardholders who use public devices and Wi-Fi expose their accounts more than those who use private and personal devices and Wi-Fi. Even though your personal device is safer, it is not invulnerable to fraud. However, spyware can be installed on public computers, and websites can store your login information, allowing them to access your credit card number, usernames, passwords, and other personal information. Perform your online purchases in private and avoid prying eyes, as the person next to you could be a hacker spying on your online activity.

Use a strong password to secure your credit card account and accounts with online retailers/merchants. Never use the same password across merchant websites, because if cyber thieves gain access to one account, they will have access to all of your other accounts. A strong password is made up of a combination of numbers, special characters/symbols, lower and uppercase letters. We also recommend our cardholders to change their passwords regularly.

Check all SMS alerts and review credit card statements that you receive from your bank. Check to see if you authorised those payments. It is also important that you thoroughly review your credit card statements on a regular basis. This will ensure that you do not overlook any suspicious transactions that may have missed your attention earlier.

Use one specific card and computer device to do online shopping. This will allow consumers to limit the risk and exposure for compromise, in the event there is a data breach at one of your online retailers or with your computer device.

In the same vein, the CAC is urging consumers to be cautious and to exercise more scepticism towards certain shopping deals.

ALLEN... you may receivee-mails with tempting offers forthe holidays that you cannotresist. Unfortunately these offersare usually too good to be true.
PATTERSON... use one specificcard and computer device to doonline shopping
MILLER...for Black Friday, CyberMonday and Christmas, SagicorBank is giving new and existingclients a bonus on their deals
BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter laidleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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