How to Shop Securely with a Mobile Phone

By: Robert Siciliano  |  January 15, 2016


“You can buy things with your phone!” No kidding! But imagine what the response would have been had you made this statement in 1984: “Off your meds, eh?”

Purchasing via the smartphone may very well eclipse the popularity of shopping via laptop. And cyber thieves know this. They’re counting on you to slip up.

  • Never click a link inside an e-mail, even if the subject line is a warning or alert to a fabulous sale. Cyber crooks know that the small screens on mobiles can easily hide tell-tale signs of scam e-mails, people are especially vulnerable to subject lines blaring great deals.
  • If you’re too tempted to ignore the great deal, then visit the merchant’s site by typing their name into the search engine rather than clicking the link inside the e-mail! That link could lead to a virus download.
  • Never use public Wi-Fi (e.g., at the airport or hotel) to shop. Stick to your phone’s mobile broadband network or at a minimum use a virtual private network (VPN).
  • When shopping with your phone, use a credit card, never a debit.
  • When using your phone, make sure nobody is spying. This really happens; it’s called visual hacking. It can even be done with the crook’s phone—capturing on video the sensitive information you’re entering on your phone.
  • You accidentally mis-type the URL of a major retailer (but don’t know it), and you end up on their site. It’s called typo squatting. How is this possible? The site is the crook’s. He knows people will commit typos and he takes advantage of this: owning a website that mocks the real one, and you’re lured into “buying” off of it—entering your credit card or PayPal information—which he then has. And he knows you won’t pick up that the site is an imposter because your phone’s screen is so small.
  • Keep the phone’s software updated.
  • Deactivate autosave logins.
  • Your phone contains so much sensitive information about you and your family, financial data, maybe medical history, etc. What if a crook gets ahold of it? Set up a personal identification number (PIN) for login.

Download only from official app stores: Apple App Store, Google Play and Amazon. Don’t download from third-party vendors.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing  identity theft prevention.

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