Holiday shopping is an annual tradition for many people. But while it may be customary to exchange gifts with loved ones during the holiday season, how those gifts are purchased has changed dramatically over the last decade and a half.
Thanks to advancements in technology, many holiday shoppers get their shopping done without ever setting foot in malls or shopping centers. And data indicates more and more shoppers are using their smartphones to do their holiday shopping. According to Nielsen Mobile Measurement, the number of mobile shoppers in December 2014 rose to 138.1 million users, an increase of nearly 14 million users from the same period just a year earlier. And mobile shoppers averaged nearly a full hour more shopping on the Web from their mobile phones in 2014 than in 2013.
Convenience often drives shoppers’ decisions to use their mobile phones during the holiday season. But it’s important that shoppers not sacrifice security for the sake of convenience. Those who want the best of both worlds this holiday season can take several steps to protect their personal information while shopping on their smartphones.
• Only use shopping apps with which you’re comfortable. Downloading an app only takes a few seconds, and some shoppers are so used to downloading apps they may not realize just what they’re downloading. Before installing an app on your phone, familiarize yourself with the app and what it requests of its user. Some apps ask users for a considerable amount of personal information, even though there is no legitimate reason for them to have that information. If you’re uncomfortable with apps that require you to allow access to your location and other potentially sensitive information, don’t download the app.
• Sign out when you stop using an app. It may be convenient to stay signed in to an app at all times, but that can leave you vulnerable to hackers and/or thieves. Many apps store users’ credit card numbers so shoppers don’t have to enter such information each time they make a purchase. If you stay signed in to an app at all times, hackers who access your smartphone can then access your credit card information, as can thieves should your phone be stolen. Signing out when you finish using an app provides an extra measure of protection.
• Turn off automatic connections. Many smartphones enable users to automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks so they can seamlessly access the Internet regardless of where they are. However, some Wi-Fi networks are fraudulent, and you may unknowingly be transmitting sensitive data through such networks when you automatically log on. Disable automatic connections, only logging on to secure Wi-Fi networks when out in public.
• Browse but don’t buy. Shoppers who are especially concerned about smartphone security may want to use apps and their smartphone’s Internet connections to browse rather than buy. Avoid logging into apps or websites when using your smartphone, instead browsing deals and jotting them down on the phone’s notes app. You can then make purchases once you gain access to a secure network, such as the one at your home or office.
Holiday shoppers are increasingly turning to their smartphones to do their holiday shopping. While the convenience of such devices may be unrivaled, consumers must prioritize security over expediency.