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Online shopping is gradually becoming more popular in Jamaica, and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local retailers have been forced to consider providing the option to their customers.

“There’s no denying that if the trend continues, eventually more seniors will have to embrace ecommerce as a normal, useful and helpful tool,” said Henrique Chambers, cyber-security officer at The Jamaica National Group.

“The truth is, ecommerce allows us access to products and services from the comfort of our home, and with the ever-present threat of COVID-19, it also allows us the opportunity to reduce our exposure to the virus,” said Mr Chambers.

He noted, however, that while this is true, there are those who worry that shopping online as a senior citizen automatically means falling victim to fraud.

But Mr Chambers pointed out that seniors who are informed and aware can be just as online-shopping savvy as the rest of the population.

“Persons 60 and over are quite capable of using the internet to shop and engage with the world safely as long as they remain informed about the threats that are out there and how to safeguard themselves,” he said.

Below are a few tips that will help seniors stay current about online safety and that will allow them to feel more confident about shopping online, especially during the festive season:

Research retailers before you buy

Always do your homework before you shop. With a bit of research into the reviews for retailers you’re using for the first time, you can feel confident when shopping. Look for the following information:

  • An address and phone number listed on the website
  • Reviews from other customers
  • Robust product information for the items you wish to purchase

Look for the Lock

Mr Chambers 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 informed.

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.

Monitor your online accounts and your credit reports

One of the best things about online banking is the instant access you have to your transactions. Be sure to regularly review your chequing and savings accounts, and credit card activity daily.

“The same is true for monitoring your credit report annually. Ensure that the accounts on your report are yours and that the credit report inquiries are ones you’ve initiated. You can obtain one free copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus in Jamaica, every year,” advised Mr Chambers.

Keep your passwords protected

Mr Chambers also recommended that persons take a moment to assess the security of their passwords. “For passwords to be effective, they must be personal to you and arbitrary in format,” he said. “Using your address or date of birth repeatedly as your password across multiple accounts will put you at risk. Passwords are supposed to be random, often a series of letters, symbols, and numbers.”

He further noted that seniors should avoid leaving their passwords where others may see them. “Don’t leave bits of papers or sticky notes around the home where others can access it. Maintain a tidy book, perhaps alphabetically ordered, where you can easily go to refresh your memory on your assortment of sign-ins. There are also trusted online password managers that may be considered,” he said.