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7 Steps for Safer Mobile Shopping

Millions of shoppers are taking advantage of the convenience and money-saving potential of smartphones and tablets. Store apps, barcode readers, instant coupons and location-based deals are turning these devices into the ideal shopping companions.

But increased use of these devices is also leading to increased risk. Smartphones and tablets are often less well protected than computers, and over-the-air transactions can be vulnerable to hackers and unfriendly networks. However, there are some simple steps that we can take to make our mobile shopping expeditions a little more secure. Here are a few suggestions:

Watch out for phishing scams

Most smartphones lack firewalls, spam filters and other protections, leaving them vulnerable to e-mail phishing scams, bogus texts, and random ads that pop up on all your favorite apps. Ignore them all! Clicking on unknown links can expose your phone to malicious apps, e-mail hacks, and more. Even links that appear to come from friends and acquaintances could be the result of malware. If in doubt, you can always send a text to a friend to see if the communication was genuine before you take any action.

Beware of QR codes

QR codes – those barcode-like square images that can be scanned with a smartphone camera – are becoming increasingly popular, a fact that is not lost on the scammers. Recent reports suggest that bogus QR codes are being used to upload malware, which in turn can secretly sign up the user for premium text messaging services and more. Make sure that you only scan QR codes from reputable companies, and that the QR codes are featured in a trusted source (e.g. a local newspaper or popular magazine).

Don’t shop via social media

Facebook and other social media sites are full of bogus “special” offers and deals, and those scam ads only proliferate during the Holiday buying season. If you can’t take a break from social media, then be super-disciplined about not clicking on any links, even if those links that appear to come from a friend.

Verify e-commerce sites

If you are not sure about a particular online retailer, conduct a quick search and check out their web site before you do business with them. One of the advantages of today’s Internet is our ability to get feedback from other customers. If there are negative reviews or no reviews, then give that particular e-retailer a miss.

Avoid open Wi-Fi networks

Don’t use the local coffee shop Wi-Fi to initiate or confirm financial transactions. While your cellular network is secure, it’s an even better idea to wait until you get home so you can use your own secure network. That way you can also minimize data usage.

Use a credit card

One of the great things about online shopping is that you are still afforded the usual protections offered by the banks and credit card companies. However, you may want to consider using a different card for your online transactions, so it doesn’t affect your day-to-day credit card use. Never wire funds or send cash to settle a transaction, and avoid using any kind of debit card where the funds are made available immediately.

Review your statements

As surprising as it may sound, lots of consumers only find out about fraud days or even weeks after it has happened. Regularly check your bank and credit card statements to verify that all the charges are genuine. Make sure there are no recurring charges and you weren’t tricked into signing up for an ongoing subscription.

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