Be cautious of juicy online bargains

BY: By Efia Akese
Buy from only trusted online stores
Buy from only trusted online stores

In the last few weeks, Ghanaian media platforms (social media and traditional) have been inundated with many ‘Black Friday’ and discounted deals that promise huge discounts for customers.

According to an IT Consultant, Mr Francis K Osabutey, people who patronise items on sale, particularly online, should be mindful of some bargains and take precautions to avoid being scammed.

He said many cyber criminals took advantage of such seasons to swindle unsuspecting buyers.

Black Friday
The Black Friday craze is one of the many western lifestyles that have been adopted by Ghanaians in recent years.

Yesterday, November 26, was the peak for most of the Black Friday deals in most parts of the country.

Black Friday is a colloquial term for the Friday following Thanksgiving (celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year) in the United States.

It traditionally marks the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States.

Many stores offer highly promoted sales at discounted prices and often open very early, sometimes as early as midnight or even on Thanksgiving.

In Ghana, promotions from both well-known and upcoming brands started in mid-November and are expected to run till the first week in December.

While some of the promotions are on items available in physical shops, others are online only where customers are expected to make payments before items are delivered.

Safety measures
Mr Osabutey explained that there were many genuine websites offering discounted products and services.

There are also fake websites that have been created just to trap people into buying.

Some of these scammers he explained altered names of popular brands and created websites that looked similar to the original ones.

On these platforms, hugely discounted items are posted to attract buyers who are then swindled of their cash.

He also advised that it was safer to transact with known websites and not only patronise a website because of discounts.

“Around this time, there are many sponsored adverts on social media with juicy offers, but don’t be tricked into believing everything you see, always crosscheck. Ask for reviews from real people before entering your account details. Some of these criminals online will not only take your money and not give you any item, they will use your details for other transactions as well. You can ask your IT savvy friends to check the domain name and how long it has been in existence.

“You should also be mindful of deals that are too good to be true. It’s better to miss out on a supposedly cool deal than to lose your money” he added.

Monitoring alerts and multiple authentication
For people who paid for products and services before they were delivered, Mr Osabutey advised that it was important to keep an eye on the account used for transactions to monitor if there were any unauthorised deductions.

If the account is monitored regularly, a user will be able to notify his or her bankers to prevent further deduction.

Another useful precaution he added was the use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) explaining “With MFA, if someone tries logging into an account you used to purchase or your email, you will receive a message to verify if indeed you are the one transacting. With this, even if you mistakenly submitted your password to hackers, you can cancel their transaction".

What I ordered versus what I received
Online shopping has become popular in Ghana and the outbreak of COVID-19 further deepened people’s interests in shopping online.

There are also many foreign sites with agents in Ghana who deliver items ordered from abroad.

It is common to see pictures on social media platforms showing differences in items people purchased versus what was sent to them.

Mr Osabutey advised that “Finally make sure you read the fine prints and understand it well. Some of the deals have hidden conditions or tricks to get you to sign onto a package. Some discounts on year-long packages are only applicable to the first month on subscription. If you don’t understand these terms and you sign on thinking you will enjoy discounts throughout the year, you will be disappointed and you may have already entered your payment details so you can’t reverse the transaction,” he stated.

Tips for buying online
• Watch out for fake websites

• Only use secure and trusted sites

• Read the fine print, especially for subscription deals.

• Some deals do not cover the entire period.

• Beware of phishing emails: Criminals know a lot of people will patronise popular sites so they will also send phishing emails from major online stores

• Avoid deals that are too good to be true

• Buy from only trusted stores — ones you have previously dealt with or heard of.

• Monitor bank statements for fraudulent activities

• Use a particular email for online shopping. If you are worried about spam, it will be best to create one email for such activities.

• Turn on two Factor Authentication (2FA / Multi Factor Authentication)

• Be careful of downloads, especially for software subscriptions.

RANSOMWARE is still a major issue.

Credit: Francis K. Osabutey
I.T Consultant/Digital Services Lead, Graphic Communications Group Limited