DOJ warns against online shopping

By , on May 3, 2015


MANILA, — For busy people, online shopping is heaven-sent.

It is the most convenient way to get our hands to the stuff we need–whether it be clothes, gadget and food, just a few clicks and voila, the items we need will be delivered to our doorstep.

However, while it has its advantages, online shopping also has the disadvantages, particularly the privacy and security of online transactions.

From January to December of 2014, the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) has recorded 614 cybercrime incidents compared to same period in 2013 where there were only 288 incidents recorded.

Of the 614 incidents, 22 percent are internet fraud scam, eight percent are violation of the E-Commerce Law, and one percent each for credit card and ATM (automated teller machine) fraud.

“As citizens enjoy the convenience and choice in online shopping platforms, fraud and abuses are happening. These include false advertising and sale of counterfeit goods as forms of deceptive sales practices,” Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary of Justice Leila M. De Lima said in a statement.

The DOJ-Office of Cybercrime (OOC) has come up with a guideline on how to prevent online shopping fraud.

“Consumers must remain vigilant and proactive in protecting their welfare and rights. Like traditional markets, customers should keep in mind the principle of caveat emptor (buyer beware) in their online dealings. It is highly important to be wary of online fraud to avoid the arduous process and inconvenience of recovering any damage,” the DOJ said.

In its 15-page guideline, the DOJ-OCC has listed the things to do when shopping online:

— Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date;

— Update your internet browser as and when a new patch is released;

— Research a seller before making an online purchase. Independently verify their contact details and other company information;

— Invest the time to read all details of an offer to sell;

— Be wary of unsolicited emails from online businesses that you do not know;

— Use strong passwords, which contain a combination of letters, numbers and other characters. Change them regularly and use different passwords for different online accounts;

— Read and understand the seller’s terms and conditions and privacy policies;

— Check that a green padlock symbol is displayed either in the bottom right-hand corner of the webpage or in the address bar and verify the same; and

— Be vigilant in transmitting financial and personal information. Avoid unsecure channels like public Wi-fl, email, phone calls, or mobile messaging.

The DOJ-OCC also reminded the public not to use public computers when shopping online or access websites via links embedded in emails.

Dealing with strangers is also dangerous online.

The DOJ-OCC added that the public should avoid divulging personal or financial information and passwords to anyone requesting them and do not use the same passwords on all online accounts.

It also told the public to be mindful of the “red flags” of an online shopping fraud which include poor rating or feedback of online sellers; online sellers requesting that you pay by money transfer or direct to their bank accounts, websites or online sellers with no contact details such as address or telephone numbers.

Under Section 5 of Joint Administrative Order No. 01 retailers, sellers, and suppliers engaged in online business are required to provide the following:

— Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and/or Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration;

— Name of the owner/proprietor of a retail establishment in case of a single proprietorship and names of directors and other officers in case of a corporation;

— Principal geographical address of the retailer, seller, distributor, supplier or manufacturer, and when applicable, of offices or agents in the Philippines; and

— Website, e-mail address or other electronic means of contact, telephone and fax numbers of the retailer, and when applicable, of its offices or agents in the Philippines, among others.

“Products are advertised at very low prices compared to other websites-if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is a fraud,” the DOJ-OCC guideline said.

The DOJ-OCC added that the public should be wary of websites with limited or no information about privacy and their terms and conditions of use.