Shop wisely online, advises Consumer Affairs Commission
With the busy Christmas shopping season under way, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is reminding consumers to be vigilant while conducting business online.
Information Technology Manager at the CAC, Andrew Evelyn, has acknowledged that the agency does not have the legal power to pursue merchants who reside overseas.
“Our Consumer Protection Act solely protects our local consumers and also our merchants. In that regard, when you are doing an online transaction with an overseas merchant, it is your duty and responsibility to take very special care in doing these transactions,” Evelyn explained.
He said shoppers should use websites that are secure, adding that one way to determine the security of a website is by looking at the site's address.
“Check the first five characters in the website’s name; it should start with 'https', as that indicates that the website protects highly confidential online transactions like online banking and online shopping,” Evelyn said.
“It is very important that a website is encrypted, as if it is not, then your credit card information and password are sent over the Internet in clear text, meaning persons with (certain) software can clearly see your password,” he added.
Consumers are also being encouraged to shop on reputable websites, such as Amazon, to avoid having their personal information compromised by persons with criminal intent.
“The more reputable websites spend a lot of money to improve their security, and they have well-established procedures to handle complaints and to provide redress or compensation to the consumer if the purchase is not satisfactory,” Evelyn advised.
The CAC representative also indicated that persons can research reviews of a website through avenues such as betterbusinessbureau.com, www.yelp.com or ripoffreport.com.
Evelyn also urged consumers to desist from conducting transactions online while utilising free Internet connections.
Consumers are also encouraged to use a third-party payment platform, such as PayPal, to avoid using their credit card information on several sites.
“Using a third-party application helps to keep your information protected, as you are unaware of how well your information will be kept on some websites. Therefore, an application like PayPal that invests a lot in their infrastructure, will protect your identity and credit card,” said Evelyn.
The IT manager also advised that persons should create stronger passwords; update their browsers; regularly check credit card statements; and avoid purchasing from links shared in spam emails.