Warning! - Scores of Jamaicans getting burnt shopping online
It is fast becoming a convenient way of shopping for many, but scores of Jamaicans are now finding out that going online to purchase items comes with its own challenges and dangers.
It the latest case, scores of persons have found that an online store they sent their money to has blocked them from its website without delivering the items they had ordered.
Jennyfer Marzouca is still waiting for the $18,600 worth of goods she purchased from the online clothing and shoe store KandiiKloset more than six months ago. After complaining about her ordeal, she was blocked from its website.
"I have not received my stuff as yet, and I [am] still blocked from them," Marzouca told The Sunday Gleaner.
KandiiKloset was advertised as a mobile retail store, which promised to sell gorgeous children and women clothes. But Marzouca said it has not lived up to its promise.
"I feel used. When I started to contact them to order the stuff, it was 'hun hun'. Then I did the transfer of money and from that time only excuses I have been getting," said Marzouca, who is not the only one being given the run around by KandiiKloset.
One customer who paid for $10,000 worth of items on December 4 said she started to get concerned after not receiving her goods within the 10 to 14 days delivery period, as promised.
After making contact, she was blocked for some weeks, until she obtained a phone number for the proprietor.
"I messaged directly (and) they unblocked me from messenger when I told them my brother worked with MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency). They also made the promise that I would be refunded this month. I am still waiting," said the woman.
For Michelle Cooper*, her ordeal started in June 2017 when she transferred money to the store's account. She said after checking the many positive reviews, she felt confident to go through with the purchase.
"The seven to 10-day waiting period turned into months. I eventually got a part of my order along with an incorrect item in August. I was subjected to a lot of rude responses and in some cases, no response at all.
"I later discovered that the reviews were repeated screen shots that were placed on their page. After threatening to go to the relevant authorities I finally got a refund in January 2018," said Cooper.
When The Sunday Gleaner contacted the proprietor of KandiiKloset, she admitted that a number of clients are awaiting their orders but said she has responded to those who have made complaints.
"The major problem is that the delivery takes way too long and there ends up being poor communication, in that customers are provided with sufficient updates," she said.
She insisted that some customers have had flawless experiences while for some it's horrible.
"While a person is free to air their displeasure, the biggest problem we have is that when the issue gets resolved by them either getting their order or a refund, the public is still of the view that we haven't done so," she said.
A notice was posted to the store's Facebook page shortly after she spoke with our news team, inviting persons who had not received their orders to get in touch.
The online store has no address or telephone number on its Facebook page; however, buyers are prompted to send a message if they have any queries.
The store advertises that it sells items sourced from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and it takes seven to 10 business days for orders to arrive in Jamaica before they are delivered via a courier service.
But several persons showed our news team receipts dating back to August 2017 for items which are still not delivered.
"When we post on the page, she (proprietor) reports it to Facebook as spam and then message us about our complaint," one said woman.
"I reported the matter to the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) via email, but we just got an acknowledgement of the email and that was it," she said.
Director of communications at the CAC, Latoya Halstead, told The Sunday Gleaner that the commission's database does not have a record of complaints about online rip-offs.
"It is important to note that anyone can set up an online shop. Therefore, before you place an order online, confirm that the shop has a physical address and a phone number where you can reach someone if you have problems with your order," the CAC advised.
*Name changed on request
- Nadine Wilson-Harris contributed to this story.
The following are recommended by the CAC to minimise the chances of being ripped off when shopping online.
1. Conduct your background check by looking at sites dedicated to reviewing
e-stores. If the store is not reviewed or does not have favourable reviews, do not use it.
2. Online ads that offer deals on luxury items at low prices can be part of a scheme to take your money and give you nothing in return. Scammers falsely use well-known name brands in their ads for clothing, shoes, online games, and other expensive items to entice you.
3. Avoid clicking on pop-up ads which can download viruses, spyware, malware, and other unwanted software to your computer. Shop on familiar, trusted websites.
4. If the seller requires payment through a wire transfer or by you giving them numbers off a gift card or prepaid card, that's a scam. Legitimate sellers will not restrict payment to those methods.
5. Never buy anything online using your credit card from a site that does not have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. Typically, the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of justHTTP://) and an icon of a locked padlock will appear in the status bar at the bottom of your Web browser. Never give anyone your credit card information via email. PayPal, however, is still a safe way to make a payment.
6. Online stores do not require a lot of personal information (Example, TRN, NIS and birthdate) to conduct business. If a scammer gets this information and combine it with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. Therefore, always refrain from giving up too much information.
7. Do not use public computers to make purchases. If you do, remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you are just checking email.
8. Limit financial information on your laptop and handheld devices.
9. Monitor card transactions frequently.
10. Report suspicious activity on your accounts immediately.
11. Always ensure that you obtain and retain your receipt.