Safe online shopping with smartphones and tablets.
This year at Christmas time it is expected to reach record figures in the number of purchases made online. And while the convenience of making Christmas shopping in this way should be noted, it is also important to take some security precautions before sharing payment information online (See: How to buy insurance online).
Moreover, more and more people are using their smartphones and tablets to make purchases online. This move to mobile poses its own specific security challenges, including malicious apps and phishing scams via text messages.
Here are some online shopping safety tips that should always be kept in mind on all devices.
- Check that the address is "https: //"
Not all web pages are equally protected. Before entering personal or payment information, we must make sure to check in the browser bar that the URL begins with HTTPS and not HTTP. That simple letter at the end, S, makes the difference between a safe and an unsafe site. Another thing to look for is the lock icon in the address bar. This padlock indicates that an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection has been established. The icon is standard for the most popular browsers, including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.
On mobile devices, the address bar is smaller and easier to miss. Zoom in on the address to locate the S before sharing payment information.
- Beware of WiFi
Buying from mobile devices implies a greater probability of being connected to a WiFi network that we do not know.
We should avoid entering our credit card number or other private information when we are on an unsecured public WiFi connection, where people could snoop. It is better to wait until you are back at home or work.
- Check vendors and apps
The Internet is full of stores, some reputable and others downright unreliable. When hunting for bargains, it can be tempting to shop from the site that offers the lowest price. However, it is worth spending a little time researching any vendors with whom we are not familiar.
The same tips are applicable when we are using a mobile application. Download applications for our smartphones and tablets only from official stores, such as the App Store for iOS or Google Play for Android. Always check the comments made by other users in the app stores to see what they have to say.
Another option is to download a mobile security app that scans for new software and links.
- Beware of phishing, smishing and similar scams
By now most people know to be wary of phishing scams - e-mails disguised from legitimate companies or organizations asking for payment information or passwords - but every now and then one comes along that looks incredibly convincing. To be on the safe side, it's best to copy and paste all the links into another browser window instead of clicking on the hyperlink, checking the source email address, and if in doubt, contacting the company to verify the email.
SMiShing (a charming acronym for "SMS" and "phishing") has emerged recently, fooling the unsuspecting who were not expecting to receive this type of spam in the form of a text message.
As a general rule, legitimate companies never ask for private information via email or text messages, including payment information, user names, passwords, mother's maiden name, or social security number.
- Set a password to protect mobile devices
It is a simple and important precaution. Yes, it will take us a few more seconds to access email or open an app, but smartphones often contain more valuable information than what we carry in our wallet.
If we lose our phone or tablet or it is stolen, anyone can access the large amount of data we have stored on it. Even if individual apps require a password, someone can use our email address and phone number to try to reset them.
- Update frequently
Many operating system and application updates fix security problems, plug holes, and fix bugs that could be exploited by hackers.
On our computer, we must update the operating system when requested and make sure that we are using the latest version of the browser.
On mobile devices, the routine is easier because the applications come from a central application store and that allows us to see at a glance which applications exactly need an update.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card
Credit cards are a safer online payment option than debit cards. Most credit cards offer purchase protection in case someone steals our card number or if we make a payment at an online store that offers a poor quality product or we do not receive the product at all.
It is also worth spending some time reviewing your bank statements. That way, should any of these security measures fail, we'll be able to detect suspicious charges as soon as possible.
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