Security tips for safer shopping from your mobile phone

Shopping on a smartphone is convenient but there are security risks to be aware of.

Online shopping increasingly means shopping on your smartphone. One in three transactions for purchases made using PayPal in Australia are on a mobile device, and that figure is expected to increase. Shopping in this way is obviously convenient, but it also can create potential security risks.

Shop from a dodgy site or without taking adequate precautions and you could end up with an unpleasant surprise item on your credit card, or even nastier consequences such as identity theft or data loss. Follow these simple tips to make sure that your mobile shopping is a source of pleasure, not a pain.

Don't use public Wi-Fi for online shopping. You have no idea what the security settings are for free Wi-Fi, so the potential risk of someone snooping on traffic and discovering credit card numbers and passwords is very real. Use your 4G/3G data instead, or wait until you're at home and on your own Wi-Fi connection.

Don't have your phone memorise passwords. It might seem convenient to have the passwords for your favourite online stores stored on your phone, but that makes it simple for someone else to use your phone for shopping. Quite aside from the risk of theft, it's too easy to hand your phone to a child to distract them and then discover they've spent a fortune on apps (or shoes). Also, make sure that you have set up your phone with a password or fingerprint recognition, so it can't be used for shopping if it's mislaid or stolen.

Do use different passwords for every retailer. Yes, it's annoying to have to remember different passwords. But it's also annoying to discover that your favourite store has been hacked, and that criminals now have a password that will work on every store you use (and possibly your bank account as well). Minimise the risk by choosing different passwords for every store. If you have trouble remembering them, use a password manager such as LastPass, KeePass or Dashlane.

Do use official retailer apps when possible. Using a custom-built app from a retailer will minimise the amount of information you have to enter when ordering, and is usually a more secure choice than using your mobile browser.

Do regularly check your credit card statements. Make sure you check the statement so you can spot any unauthorised transactions. There's no excuse not to, especially since you can use your bank's official app to do so! Set a recurring appointment in your phone calendar so you don't forget.

This article was originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald on 31 May 2016. This article represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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