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Online stores very convenient for Christmas shopping but beware of crooks

Online stores very convenient for Christmas shopping but beware of crooks

Internet shopping has grown by leaps and bounds during the year, not least boosted by the proliferation of Namibian online shops, but also by the explosion in direct-marketing websites offering Christmas season specials to an eager Namibian clientele.

But internet shopping is fraught with danger, and prospective buyers are often completely uninformed about the risk of losing their money, even from vendors who, on the surface, appear legitimate in all aspects.

Head of Bank Windhoek’s Forensic Services, Johnny Truter this week warned Namibian holiday shoppers about the perils of online buying in the face of its growing popularity, and the rapidly increasing number of so-called smartphones. The latter essentially puts a sales directory in every user’s pocket, but thieves exploit this convenience, mimicking popular sites and brands, to try and get customers to log into their false websites only so that they can be conned into entering their account information and pin codes.

“A technique used by fraudsters is to create imposter websites,” said Truter. “This website looks exactly similar to another legitimate website but is actually a fake. Fraudsters use it to steal personal identification information and banking details like bank account numbers, PIN numbers, card numbers, expiry dates and CVV numbers. Fraudsters exploit this information to do card-not-present online transactions,” he continued.

It is therefore important to look at the risks involved in dealing with businesses on the internet. Most important is to establish the legitimacy of the website. A quick internet search to verify the history and credibility of the business will show whether the site has been reported previously for fraudulent activities. “A tip here is to combine the name of the website with words like fraud, online fraud, theft, poor service, etc. when doing to research,” said Truter.

Fake websites may lure shoppers with promises of free vouchers, free gifts, add-ons like discounts on other products, and create a sense of urgency with soon to be expired special low prices or low stocks on very popular, high in demand and flavour-of-the-season items like toys.

“Always make sure that the website shows “https” and a little padlock in the address bar as opposed to only “http”. A website without these may not be safe and fraudsters find it difficult to create “https” websites with the padlock. At the point of payment, again make sure that the padlock is there, if not, the website may not be safe. Always check on the payment system used and that it is a reputable one like MasterCard or Visa,” Truter advised.

“It is always good to do some research on the product you want to buy, know the brand and its average price. This may prevent you from falling for a scam by buying at very low bargain prices. If a price is too good to be true, it most probably is. Make sure what you are paying for and what is included and not included in the price. Additional hidden costs may be VAT, shipping, customs, clearance fees, etc. which can change a bargain into a very expensive item,” he cautioned.

“Always check out the warranty and if it will be honoured by local authorized dealers in Namibia. If not, what will be your options? Therefore it is important to look at the website’s return policy in case the item falls short of expectations or what was promised. Some may choose not to take back a product if it is not defective. The costs to return an item to a foreign country may be prohibitively expensive.”



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The Staff Reporter

The staff reporter is the most senior in-house Economist reporter. This designation is frequently used by the editor for articles submitted by third parties, especially businesses, but which had to be rewritten completely. - Ed.