Thwart cyber scrooges this holiday season with these mobile shopping tips

Nov 17, 2011 9:56am

By Emily Eckland, NCSA Managing Editor of Digital Media

The holiday season is nearly upon us and with it comes decorating, eating and of course, shopping for gifts. If you’re thinking about crossing some items of your holiday-to-do list by buying gifts on your smartphone this year, you’re not alone.

We teamed up with McAfee for our annual home user study and found that more people will be ditching the brick and mortar stores and opting to use their smartphones and other mobile devices to browse online stores, research gifts, and make purchases.

More people may be tackling their shopping lists with a single swipe on their touch screens, but they aren’t taking the necessary steps to prevent themselves from viruses, malware and identity theft.

We found 72% of those polled said they had no security software on their phones. And according to McAfee, mobile malware is expected to affect more than 1 in 20 devices within the next 12 to 24 months.

So how do you make sure that fantastic online deal really isn’t malware or a phishing attempt?

Here are some tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee:

  • Be Aware of Holiday Shopping Gimmicks: Be mindful of holiday shopping efforts to lure you. Cyber crooks will adjust to the holiday season, trying to get you to click through to deals that may appear too good to be true. They may also try to trick you by sending emails that something has gone wrong with an online purchase.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in email, tweets, social networking posts, text messages, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your devices. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it's best to delete or, if appropriate, mark as junk email.
  • Only Download Apps from Official App Stores: Stick to reputable sources, such as iTunes and the Android Market, and read user reviews before downloading them. Dangerous apps are usually free and are disguised as games.
  • Provide Only Essential Information: Sure, we all want to save money and make sure we’re getting the best deal. But if that involves searching for online coupons, take a minute to think before handing over your personal information for that discount.
  • Protect Your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the websites you visit are security enabled. Look for web addresses with "https://" or "shttp://", which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. "Http://" is not secure.
  •  Be on the Lookout for Holiday Phishing Scams:  Phishing attacks use email or malicious Web sites to collect personal and financial information. According to McAfee, a popular holiday phishing scam involves a phony notice from UPS saying you have a package and need to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. The form may ask for personal or financial information that will then be sent to a cyberscammer.
  • Know the Seller: Research online retailers before you make a first-time purchase from a merchant (or auction seller) new to you. Search to see how others have rated them, and check their reviews. It can’t hurt to do it as a return customer too, because reputations can change.
  •  If it’s Too Good to be True, it’s Likely a Scam: Phony contests and promotions will be on the rise as the holidays approach. Cyber scammers post ads online and on social networks that offer giveaways like the “it” gift this season or airline tickets – but the only thing that will be given away is your personal information.
  • Get Savvy about Wi-Fi Hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine. And never shop or bank online over an unsecured Wi-Fi network.