There has been a significant increase in the use of information technology (IT) as persons work, study and conduct business from home due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
IT Manager at the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Andrew Evelyn, tells JIS News, that with more persons going online using their phone, laptop or tablet, they are being exposed to identify theft, invasion of privacy, cyberbullying, offensive images and messages, among other things.
He is providing some tips to ensure that the use of technology is safer for consumers.
“Use the very latest browser (update) for your devise to ensure that your browser will help to protect you. We are also asking that you install the latest antivirus software…. AVG is a free antivirus software that will certainly assist in protecting you,” he says.
“Shop on websites with good encryptions. So you should ensure that the website has ‘https’ on it, which signifies that it is encrypted and will give you good protection,” he adds.
Mr. Evelyn says that persons should ensure that they use strong passwords that are not easily broken.
“I notice persons would use their birthdays as a password or they use their child’s name or something like that. Those are easy to break. Ensure that [you] use a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols in your password, a minimum of eight characters,” he advises.
He further urges consumers not to make any purchases online when connected to a free Wi-Fi.
“You see free Wi-Fi and you say okay ‘I can buy some things on Amazon’ and before you know it, your credit card is compromised and your phone is compromised,” he points out.
Mr. Evelyn says that consumers should only patronise stores that are reputable, that they have shopped before, or have positive reviews from previous customers.
“The larger websites usually invest a lot of money in their cybersecurity and IT security infrastructure, such as Amazon and e-Bay. If you see a website and wish to purchase an item, do a quick search of the website and ensure that they don’t have a bad reputation, either with bad customer service, or they have cybersecurity incidents on a regular basis,” he says.
He notes that the information is freely available online, through websites such as https://www.ripoffreport.com. “It provides a lot of information about various websites that are set up to rip you off,” he says.
The CAC IT Manager says, further, that when making a purchase online, consumers should not do so by way of debit card, cash, or electronic transfer.
He says that persons, should, instead, use their credit cards, or PayPal, which is a third-party payment platform that provides a higher level of protection when purchasing online.
Mr. Evelyn also advises consumers to avoid making purchases from spam emails.
“You receive an email, you don’t know the source of this email, and then you click and make a purchase. That is a bad practice. You can, however, purchase from websites that you have purchased from before, sometimes they do send you an email,” he says.
Mr. Evelyn further urges persons who shop online regularly to check their credit card transactions.
“One of the great things the banks have been doing is providing alerts once money comes from your account. If your bank is not providing you with alerts, you need to talk to them,” he says.
Meanwhile, Mr. Evelyn is encouraging parents to learn about safe online practices, which they can impart to their children.
“Students going online, they have access to almost any platform. They have access to online chat rooms, videos, music and those contents might not necessarily match up to your value system. You need to ensure that your children understand this and they should stay away from content that is meant for adults; this is crucially important,” he says.
Mr. Evelyn says that parents can download and install apps on devices that can track the website their child visits, the pictures they are taking and they can also restrict the child to only using certain apps on the device.
“They are easy to find, these child protection applications. Just look in the android app store and you see a host of them. A lot of them will charge, some of them have built-in advertisements and all of that… but as parents, you need to seek out these apps and find the best one that suits you and install it,” Mr. Evelyn says.
The CAC is the national agency responsible for consumer advocacy. For further information, persons can call 876-906-5425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.