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Hit the jackpot on Black Friday

How can South Africans ensure they don’t come out of this year’s Black Friday poor? LEE NAIK, CEO of TransUnion Africa, offers his 7 top tips

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Some people love it. Some people hate it. But whatever your feelings on Black Friday, the one thing you can’t do is ignore it.

South African retailers and consumers alike have embraced America’s favourite shopping day in all its excess. And in case you thought we might have a subdued Black Friday this year, search trends show otherwise.

Black Friday can be incredibly profitable for retailers and smart consumers alike, but we need to go into it with a reality check. It’s been an incredibly tough financial year for us as South Africans, and we can’t go in with the same mind-set of finding a bargain at any cost.

Half of Black Friday accounts are in arrears six months down the line

I’m a big believer that Black Friday is a marvellous opportunity for retail, but there’s a way to do it wrong and a way to do it right. And I’m not just talking about avoiding frenzied crowds bashing down doors. As the CEO of TransUnion Africa, I get to see a different picture than most people, and how their spending and lending habits on Black Friday might affect them down the line.

It’s been speculated by many commentators that Black Friday is one of the more dangerous times of the year for poor credit behaviour if consumers don’t carefully think about their purchases before swiping. To confirm this, we looked at new account openings made during the week of Black Friday 2018 (19-26 November) compared to the same week a month before. The results were eye-opening.

We found that people were more likely to take out loans and increase their spending limits during Black Friday period – to the tune of a 37% increase in new accounts and a 21% increase in total credit limits for new credit cards, clothing and retail revolving accounts.

The majority of this growth came from higher-risk loans – there was a 49% increase in retail installment accounts (normally used for furniture and electronics) and a 30% increase in retail revolving accounts (normally used for electronics, homeware and general appliances).

That’s not unexpected – home electronics and appliances are as much a part of Black Friday as presents and crackers are of Christmas. The problem comes after the madness has worn off. Our data found that six months on, just over half of new retail revolving accounts taken out during Black Friday 2018 were more than one month in arrears.

So, shoppers beware. That flat screen TV or PlayStation that’s on special for half the price might seem like a good bargain at the time, but it could lead to some very nasty debt down the road.

Top Tips for Beating the Black Friday Blues

Now for the good news. Black Friday doesn’t have to end in tears and arrears. By following these simple rules, you can avoid getting caught up in the hype and walking away with a maxed-out credit card and seven new retail store accounts you can’t afford. 

#1 – Start with a health check

Before you start dreaming of shopping carts full of electronics, take the time to know your own financial health. Do you know what you already owe? Have you pulled your credit report to see whether you have debts you are unaware of? The more you understand your current financial health, the more realistically you can set limits as to what you can afford.

#2 – Know Your Target

It pays to do some basic prep work in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Go in with a plan of what you’re looking to get out of it – is your washing machine in need of an upgrade, for example. Focus on a few things that you need, especially when it comes to big ticket items like furniture and home appliances. Be ruthless if you have to be – if you want five things but can only afford one, rather devote your time, energy on the one thing you need the most.

#3 – Don’t Roll the Dice When it Comes to Price

With your targets set, it’s time to do the groundwork of what you’re likely to pay. Search on Google, Bing or price comparison sites like pricecheck.co.za to get a feel for what the products you’re looking for normally cost and what retail sites you might find them on. Go to the online sites themselves and see what the current price is. Knowing the prices beforehand will allow you to sniff out the real bargains and avoid misleading “discounts” that aren’t what they say they are.

#4 – Put Your Chips Aside

Waking up on Black Friday can feel like stepping into a casino – there’s just way too much to see, do and spend, and you’ve got the temptation to play until you hit the jackpot and find a really great bargain. That’s why it’s a good idea to follow the old gambler’s credo of only putting down what you’re willing to lose. Set a maximum spend limit based on your research of what your must-have items cost and what you can afford, and stick closely to it on the day.

#5 – Set Your Sights on the Right Sites

Just like there’s nothing more fun than hitting the jackpot, there’s also nothing more annoying than missing out on it because you’re too slow. Let your Black Friday wish list guide you. Bookmark the relevant retail sites and even product listings if you’re looking for a very specific item, in order to instantly access them on Black Friday. Sign up to newsletters and download the relevant apps to be served push notifications and check the best deal round-ups that many sites release. Assuming they’re not overrun with people, visit a few physical stores in your area that sell the items on your wish list and head straight to what you’re looking for.

#6 – Think Before You Pay

Before you finalize your shopping cart or head to the till, take one final look at what you’re about to buy. If you’ve done the research, you should have a good feel for what counts as a well-priced item and what you can get for nearly the same price or don’t really need. Pay cash where possible instead of signing up for a new account or charging to your credit card. When in doubt, drop whatever doesn’t offer good value or isn’t one of your must-haves.

#7 – Don’t Sweat it if You Don’t Get it

Remember, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just the start of the festive retail season. Don’t get caught up in the false urgency of timers and limited availability that you buy something you don’t need or that could put you in financial difficulty. Put your wish list aside until it’s time for summer, Christmas, New Year’s and end-of-season sales, and then follow these same strategies.

The countdown has begun. Start your prep-work, set your limits and remember – it’s better to walk away with less than you wanted than it is with unnecessary debt. Shop smart, spend wisely, and you could be enjoying your most successful Black Friday yet.

Want to make sure you’re on the mark this Black Friday? Phone 0861 482 482 or head to www.transunion.co.za for your free annual credit report.

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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