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Growth & Jobs | Shopping safely this COVID Christmas

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2020 | 12:11 AM

It is always a good idea to take extra precautions when Christmas shopping, but with the threat of COVID-19, it has become even more important to pay attention to your physical health and safety when making purchases during this festive season.

Given that physical distancing is key to slowing the spread of the virus, the traditional holiday-hopping experience of crowded stores may not be as attractive this year as in the past. As such, Michael Collins, Team Lead of the Youth Banking Unit at JN Bank, is advising Jamaicans to consider shopping online where possible.

“Online shopping was already a great way to get your holiday gifts before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is an even better option now. You can purchase what you want from home without encountering a store full of people,” he stated.

Collins further noted that another advantage of shopping on the Internet is that people can take advantage of several deals, which may be offered exclusively online.

“Look out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, which may help you to save money on Christmas gifts and other supplies,” he advised.

USE A CONTACTLESS CREDIT CARD

Collins suggested that another way for persons to protect themselves when shopping in stores this Christmas is to pay with a contactless credit card.

“You can hold this type of card above the payment terminal or tap it on the payment terminal, assuming it accepts contactless payments. This allows you to avoid physical contact with cashiers or payment terminals, which go through hundreds of transactions per day,” he said,

Collins advised that if persons wanted to find out if they have a contactless credit card, all they need to do is to look for a wave symbol on the card or ask their card issuer.

“If you don’t have a contactless card, you can apply for one at your bank,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Dwayne Brown, senior manager, cyber security at the JN Group, has cautioned that while shopping online comes with several advantages, there are also risks involved.

He advised shoppers to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they protect themselves from scams and other forms of cyberattacks.

ALWAYS USE A TRUSTED SITE

He noted that search results could be engineered to lead shoppers astray, especially when they drift past the first few pages of links.

“If you are wary of a site, perform your due diligence. Websites such as the Better Business Bureau in the United States of America has an online directory and a scam tracker. Other sites, such as Yelp and Google, also provide detailed retailer reviews. Therefore, ensure that the company is legit prior to giving them your credit card number,” Brown advised.

However, he warned shoppers that online reviews can be faked. “If you see nothing but positive feedback and can’t tell if the writers are legitimate customers, follow your instincts,” he cautioned.

LOOK FOR THE LOCK

Brown also recommended that online shoppers only make purchases on secured websites. “Never buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You will know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with “HTTPS” instead of just “HTTP,” he noted.

In addition, he pointed out that an icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically to the left of the URL in the address bar or the status bar down below, depending on the browser being used.

DO NOT OVERSHARE

He further noted that when shopping on the Internet, shoppers should try to give up as little personal information as possible.

“No online store or company needs your tax registration number (TRN) or your birthday to do business. However, it can be dangerous if scammers were to get their hands on this kind of personal data. Along with your credit card number, they could do a lot of damage. The more scammers know, the easier it is to steal your identity,” he warned.

CHECK YOUR STATEMENTS REGULARLY

Additionally, Brown advised persons to check their bank and credit card statements regularly.

“Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly, especially during the holiday season, to view electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and chequing accounts,” he said.

UPDATE YOUR SOFTWARE

He also advised persons to protect against malware with regular updates to their operating systems and antivirus programmes. “Make the sacrifice and purchase a full-blown security suite, which will have antivirus software, but also will fight spam, spear-phishing emails, and phishing attacks from websites,” Brown said. “Remember, it’s not enough to have it installed. Make sure your anti-malware tools are always up to date. Otherwise, they can let in many new threats.”