In December 2015, the MCA rolled out a media campaign promoting online shopping and the benefits associated with this activity, as well as how to shop safely over the internet. A number of valuable tips were published on the Authority’s website and promoted on Facebook, informing individuals on how to shop online with peace of mind and avoiding falling prey to online fraudsters.
SHOP SAFELY ONLINE THIS CHRISTMAS!
More than half the Maltese population is shopping online. You too can start enjoying the benefits of online shopping by following the tips below!
The most immediate benefit of online shopping is the convenience to shop anytime, anywhere, as well as the facility to compare prices from different sites, with relative ease. With Christmas just round the corner, the propensity towards online shopping is most likely to peak during this time. Whilst many are mindful of the benefits of shopping online, not everyone may be aware of how to conduct online purchases in a safe and secure manner. If you are one of these individuals, then you may easily fall prey to a growing army of creative online fraudsters, who tend to become more active during periods of peak sales.
Here are some valuable tips that will help you shop online with peace of mind and avoid any pit holes in this regard.
1. Always use a secure WiFi or Internet Connection when purchasing online
Although it is comfortable and easy to browse and buy through public networks, it is a fact that many of these networks may not be completely safe. The information packets transmitted over public domains can be vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals. For this reason, it is highly recommended that when you exchange personal information over the Internet (including your credit card details) to conduct online purchases, you should only use secure networks.
2. Keep your hardware updated and protected
Online shopping is one of the processes which requires the divulging of sensitive personal information and details. Although this information becomes encrypted to minimise the chances of security breaches during the online purchasing process, it is still important to take all the necessary measures to ensure that your personal information is not compromised in any way. Therefore before you engage in any form of online shopping activity, it is highly recommended that the hardware (computer, laptop or tablet) through which such transactions are affected are effectively protected by regularly updating your antivirus software.
3. Always purchase from known and reputable websites
The sheer vastness of the Internet can make searching for the best offers a relatively daunting task. This process can also lead you to a number of websites of a suspicious nature. Our advice of course is to stay away from these sites as much as possible. However the real problem lies in fully identifying these sites, particularly when the front end of these sites are designed just like genuine sites. So how do you make out the good from the bad ones? A good departing point would be check the web address, or the URL and ensure that it begins with 'https' rather than http. Shopping at trusted and reputable websites will reduce the risk of identity or data theft.
4. Don't forget to consider local alternatives first
Although most people are lured to online stores located overseas due to a combination of an endless selection of items and competitive prices, do not dismiss the potential value of the local online stores. You may be pleasantly suprised. Many such stores know very well the competitive challenges they need overcome in order to establish a sound Maltese client base and therefore many local online retailers are adapting to the needs of the Maltese clients through price matching and quality of service. Besides these two elements, you should also consider that in case of defective items, warranty issues can be dealt with greater ease as the retailer can be contacted directly or even visited. Another major advantage of buying from local online stores is the potential reduction of applicable shipping costs both for the delivery of items, as well for any returns. And what about the currency rates of exchange! Always bear this in mind when purchasing from foreign sites.
5. Review duty/VAT and shipping costs when buying from outside Europe
Purchasing items from any online store located within any of the 28 member states will not be subjected to duty taxes but any products originating from markets such as the USA or Asia, will be subject to duty tax, which will be levied by Maltese customs before the items you purchased can be released. In addition to these extra costs, you would also have to factor in other additional expenses such as shipping costs, which could be higher due to the longer distances or poor shipping connections involved. As mentioned previously, you must also consider the currency exchange rate to determine final price of your purchase.
6. Familiarise yourself with the trader's privacy and returns policy before completing your purchase
Before committing to any online purchase, make sure that the privacy and returns policy is easily located on the site and it looks reasonably up-to-date. A few questions that you should ask before pressing the ‘Check out’ button include; Do you know what to do if your gift is found to be defective , broken or fails to match the ordered specifications? How can you return it? Who covers the shipping bills of the returns? Does the supplier have a track record of good customer reviews? These are also issues to consider when choosing which website to shop from.
7. Avoid links in emails and ads
If you receive an email congratulating you for winning a sum of money, even if it is a small amount, there is a great chance that there is some kind of fraudulent activity lurking in the background of that email. Emails carrying unrealistic discounts or the promises of extraordinarily high return on investment may carry similar risks. In short, any emails containing offers which in your better judgement are too good to be true, they probably are, so just trash them! When in doubt, just delete. During this time of year, emails and ads with offers and big discounts are a tool widely used by cybercriminals. Finally, always remember that curiosity killed the cat! So don’t satisfy your curiosity by opening attachments coming from dubious sources.
8. Always check your credit card statements
After making several purchases online, it is good practice to carry out periodic checks of your account to ensure that all charges on your account are known and controlled. If you find any suspicious activity, such as unauthorised purchases, inform your bank immediately, in case you fell victim to identity theft.
Should you encounter any issues during your online shopping experiences, or simply need further information in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Care team by sending an email to email@example.com. We are always happy to help!