CAC Urges Online Shoppers to be Alert

Photo: Mark Bell Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Dolsie Allen (centre), urges online shoppers to take steps to protect their personal information, while addressing a recent JIS Think Tank. She is flanked by Vice President of the National Consumers League (NCL), Michael Diamond (left); and the Information Technology Manager at the CAC, Andrew Evelyn.

Story Highlights

  • 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.
  • Information Technology Manager of CAC, Andrew Evelyn, in a recent interview with JIS News, says there are steps consumers can take to protect their personal and private information from hackers and scammers.
  • Mr. Evelyn is advising consumers to use a service called Better Business Bureau (BBB) to evaluate websites before they shop.

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, in a recent interview with JIS News, says there are steps consumers can take to protect their personal and private information from hackers and scammers.

He recommends that persons only utilise legitimate, well-known and well-established websites when doing their online shopping.

He says 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”.

Mr. 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 points out.

Mr. Evelyn cautions, 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 says, 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”.

Mr. Evelyn is advising 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 explains.

He says 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 mentions 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 advises.

“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,” Mr. Diamond further cautions.

He notes 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 encourages consumers to question everything, even the spelling or phrasing on these sites and to always “look beyond the bargains”.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CAC, Dolsie Allen, notes that while online shopping offers an unlimited array of choices and the ability to compare prices, buyers should know their rights in the event that items are lost or damaged in transit.

She says they should also be aware of the consumer regulations of the country and company from which they are making the purchases. Knowing these basic rights can make resolving disputes with retailers a lot easier, she notes.

“We cannot be too careful in the way we engage these services; we need to protect ourselves as consumers,” Mrs. Allen adds.

She says that legislation that governs consumer rights in Jamaica is being amended to address these cybercrimes and provide for data protection.

The CAC observed World Consumer Rights Day on Wednesday (March 15) under the theme ‘Empowering Consumers in the Digital Age’.

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