MAKING CENTS: Follow simple steps for safer online shopping

Despite last Friday being a regular working day here, we were inundated with ads promising mega, never-to-be-repeated deals, as retailers embrace the US import Black Friday, rapidly followed by yesterday’s Cyber Monday. If you bagged a genuine bargain that you are delighted with, well done, writes Gráinne McGuinness

But the psychology of suggesting to stressed customers that they need to move fast to get a deal, combined with the increase in online shopping, means there may be disappointed shoppers when purchases are reviewed in the cold light of day. If you feel you’ve been short-changed or duped, don’t write it off to experience, there are avenues of redress available.

Many of us think we don’t have the same rights online as we do dealing with a high-street shop but EU consumer law, particularly the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), gives consumers in Ireland strong protection when dealing with EU businesses online.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) research shows that 52% of those who bought clothing/footwear online experienced difficulties with their purchase. The most common difficulty was a delay in goods being delivered. Consumers should know that under the CRD, unless they agreed otherwise, retailers must provide a refund if a delivery does not arrive within 30 days. If you do encounter problems with returns or late delivery, you can get advice on how to deal with the complaint at www.consumerhelp.ie or at www.eccireland.ie.

Of course the massive growth in online shopping has meant a corresponding increase in cybercrime and some Irish consumers may have something more serious than buyer’s remorse. I asked Paul C Dwyer, a cybercrime expert and Irish CEO of Cyber Risk International, what signs should people watch out for.

“Some are quite obvious. If you see erroneous transactions appearing on your account, then move fast.

“But another sign of a breach that people may dismiss as unimportant is signs of tampering on your email account. If you log in and see emails marked read that you know you didn’t open, or emails deleted, there could be a problem.”

Take immediate steps. If financial details have been hacked, contact your bank and get your accounts flagged and cards changed. Mr Dwyer then recommends going to a clean machine — one you haven’t used to log into your accounts. This is in case your usual device is infected with malware recording keystrokes. Change passwords to all your accounts and make them long and complex. None of us like remembering multiple passwords but it is important. Mr Dwyer suggests using password wallets apps to simplify life, there are a number free to download. Once you have done this to all your accounts go back to your own device. Run all updates on your operating system and scan with the latest version of your antivirus software.

If you fear the malware may have spread alert anyone who could be infected. If you use a shared wifi let other users know there may have been an issue so they can run their own clean up. If passwords for work could have been taken, let them know straightaway.

Mr Dwyer said: “There’s no shame in being duped online, these hackers are incredibly sophisticated. The important thing is to acknowledge it and take immediate action, to prevent bigger problems down the line.”

The good news is that following simple steps will prevent the vast majority of attacks. Be extremely cautious on public wifi networks; don’t undertake financial transactions on them. If you want to go to a particular site when shopping, type the website into the address bar rather than use a search engine, they can be fooled and redirect you. Never click on pop-ups or on emails attachments you are unsure of. Be cautious on social media, if you don’t know the people involved in real life, take it they don’t exist. When online, check that the site address leads with https, rather than just http. This means communication between your device and the site is secure.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

If Santa Claus is still working on his list for the smaller members of the family, you should tell him to check out Lidl on Thursday. They have a range of toys on special offer with two in particular that could make Christmas morning.

For budding Mary Berrys or Neven Maguires, they are selling a Kids’ Play Kitchen with Sound for €34.99. Promising to promote imagination and creativity, the impact-resistant kitchen comes with cooking sound effects and an 18-piece set of accessories.

The Toy Workbench, for €37.99, should keep those more interested in building than baking happy. The sturdy frame has holes and eight tool hooks to help store the huge range of accessories, with everything from saws to screwdrivers. The bench also has a fully functional vice with rotating crank handle.

Lidl’s toy range goes on sale in-store on Thursday December 1, with a number of other toys, including kids’ musical instruments, also available.

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