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Sunday 9 December 2018
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Safe shopping this holiday season

JULIE MISSIMORE, ACCA Head of Policy – Americas

As we approach the holiday season, we are excited to celebrate with family and friends, neighbours coming together and loved ones coming home for the holidays. We want to celebrate and show our affection by giving gifts, purchased online or in stores.

But one instance of theft, either cyber or in person is enough to put a damper on some of that holiday cheer.

A Symantec Norton survey found that nearly 978 million people worldwide were victims of cybercrime in 2017. Caribbean banks have seen a rise in cybercrime over the past several years and several governments, including the Trinidad and Tobago government, are working to take steps to address this. But we can’t just rely on the government to take care of the issue – there are steps that we can take to help protect ourselves.

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) wants to provide you with five tips designed to help you feel safer when holiday shopping — both online and in person.

Shop at trusted websites

Online shopping is becoming an increasingly popular way to shop for holiday gifts, but with it comes a bit of uncertainty. To be on the safe side, we recommend shopping at trusted websites, retailers and those that you’ve used in the past.

We also recommend that you use a credit card or PayPal for your purchases as opposed to your debit card. Both of these will help provide some coverage for you should your credit card number be stolen and then used for fraudulent purposes as you won’t be responsible for these transactions- as long as they are reported to your credit card provider. Using PayPal will also help protect your personal data as their data is encrypted at the highest possible consumer level.

Be careful what you click

If your email inbox is anything like mine, you’ll be seeing a lot of emails advertising sales and low prices trying to entice me to shop at their website. Before clicking on any links, be sure to check out not just the sender’s name, but the email address it was sent from to ensure it is legitimate. Instead of clicking through a link sent in your email, consider searching the web for the company or typing in the web address if you know it to access the website to provide another layer of protection. This can help protect your finances, personal data, and keep your computer clean of viruses and other malware.

Check your bank and credit card accounts regularly

If you are doing a lot of online shopping, be sure to review your bank account and credit cards regularly to check the transactions. This way, if your card number is stolen, you can catch the problem as soon as it occurs. If anything looks questionable, immediately contact your bank or your credit card company.

Protect your money and your family

Are you planning on doing some of your holiday shopping in a store or at a market this year? Be mindful of where you are carrying your cash and your cards, be it your purse or your wallet. Keep it close to the front of your body, where you will better be able to monitor it.

And we all know stores get crowded this time of year, so if you’re shopping with children, talk to them before you get to your shopping destination of choice to determine what to do or where to meet if you get separated in the crowds.

Don’t go into debt to show your love

As we talk about protecting our identities and our finances this holiday season, let’s also think about how to protect ourselves long term. There’s no need to go into debt to show your love to your family and friends at the holiday. You don’t need to buy gifts for everyone you know. And a handmade gift or handwritten note can be just as appreciated and certainly just as thoughtful as a purchased present.

From all of us at ACCA, we hope that these tips will help keep you and your finances safe and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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