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9 smart mobile security tips for safe online shopping

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‘Tis the season to avoid the maddening holiday crowd

This holiday season, it’s estimated that 20.4 percent of UK shoppers will avoid battling the throngs of high street shoppers and choose to do their gift shopping on their own terms. How? They’re going to use their mobile devices.

With that in mind, we’re sharing nine savvy mobile security tips for safe online shopping on your handset or tablet. Standing in queue is so 2012....

 

1. Forget debit; always go credit or online payment service.

Purchasing gifts with your debit card may seem preferable to credit because you don’t have to worry about accruing nasty APR fees.

But credit card companies tend to provide more protection than banks, should your card fall into the wrong hands. (Credit card users can bypass interest charges if they pay off their shopping sprees within the billing period; this is usually 15 to 45 days.)

The best option, however, is to go with an online payment service, like Paypal, that uses industry-leading technology to store and transmit your banking information.

 

2. Make it a habit: Capture your payment-confirmation window.

During your commute after work, you do a little holiday-gift browsing on your iPhone. You find the perfect prezzie – bacon-flavoured mouthwash – for that strange uncle of yours who harbours a dual affinity for processed pork products and oral hygiene.

Once you commit to buying and click the ‘purchase’ button, you receive a payment-confirmation window requesting you print a copy for your records. Not exactly doable if you’re on public transport.

Don’t solely rely on the merchant to email your receipt or for the site to save the transaction in your purchase history. The spike in holiday traffic taxes vendor systems and mistakes can happen.

If you don’t have the option to save the payment confirmation, take a screen capture of the window and email the file to yourself.

Not sure how to take a screenshot on your handset? Here's how you do it.

 

3. Never open retail emails on your mobile device.

During the holidays, your inbox runneth over with promotional emails boasting can’t-miss bargains. But don’t let commuter boredom force you into opening those messages. They could be phishing scams.

The gift-giving season attracts cyber swindlers who’d love nothing more than to steal your private data with a cleverly designed email.

Wait until you’re home and in front of your laptop or PC to open retail emails. Look for clues like spelling and grammatical errors and dodgy design work.

Just remember that once you open the email, clicking is forbidden. Instead, copy and paste each email link in a new browser window. This is a safe way to test the URL’s legitimacy.

Or, try this trick: Rest your cursor on top of each link in the email. A URL will pop up; if it doesn’t match the typed link, then the email is likely a phishing attempt and clicking should be avoided.

 

4. Remember to use mobile antivirus protection...

With mobile malware increasingly on the rise, antivirus protection shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Before you begin shopping, outfit your phone or tablet with mobile security software. Look for a product that scans apps for viruses and spyware, blocks shady websites, provides lost-device protection and offers automatic updates.

 

5. ...And don’t forget to update your browser app.

Always use the latest version of any of the major mobile browsers like Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Opera.

By keeping up with the latest browser updates, you’re taking advantage of built-in security features that protect you from malware. It’s as simple as keeping up with your app notifications.

 

6. Download shopping apps created by trusted developers

Of course safe online shopping is the goal, but the process should be convenient and save time, too.

Thankfully, many of the big-name merchants (like Amazon, eBay and Google) have created apps that allow you to compare prices, read reviews and choose the best bargains with a few slides of the finger.

A few suggestions:

  • Download apps from the major marketplaces: Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.
  • Read reviews, ratings and developer information to confirm the app’s authenticity.
  • Scan previously installed and newly downloaded apps for viruses and spyware (give it a try here).

 

7. Stay away from public Wi-Fi.

Shopping online with your mobile device and away from home? Give public Wi-Fi a miss and stick to your 3G/4G mobile network.

(Although if you’re insistent on showing public hotspots who’s in charge, you could always outfit your handset or tablet with a VPN that encrypts your data.)

Should you be Christmas shopping from the comfort of your home, then be sure you’re on a WPA2-protected network with enabled encryption settings.

 

8. Look for the telltale security signs.

Just as you would with your laptop or PC, look for the secure sockets layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS) signs on the mobile sites you visit.

The SSL and TSL indicators could look like a tiny padlock or an ‘https’ in the URL window. They let you know that the site will protect the transmission of your private data.

Because handset screens are so small, these signifiers may not always be present. Work around this challenge by only visiting online merchants that you trust – via typing the URL into the address bar.

 

9. Beware of shoulder surfers and prying eyes.

As mobile security tips go, this advice is about as low-tech as you can get. But shoulder surfing can have grave consequences should a crafty thief get too close.

Protect your sensitive information from snoops lurking near by; shield your login credentials from sight.

Additionally, use an online payment service when making a purchase. This way your credit card stays in your wallet or purse where it belongs.


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