NCSAM: Mobile Shopping - How Savvy Are You When Shopping Through Your Smartphone?

If you have used your smartphone for mobile shopping, then you know how easy and effortless the shopping experience is. All you have to do is download a retail company’s app, create an account (or use an existing account) that contains your personal and payment information, and then you can purchase items on your phone.


According to Outerbox.com, 62% of smartphone users have made a mobile purchase using their phone over the last six months. eCommerce spending constitutes 10% of all retail revenue, and online spending will grow exponentially in the next few years. Mobile shopping offers an access to a wider selection and variety of items, competitive pricing, convenience (anywhere, anytime) and it augments reality by allowing you to virtually try it on or see how it looks in your home.

While mobile shopping has many advantages and is convenient, there are security risks to protecting your personal and financial information. Your information and identity can be used to make purchases in your name, and it can even affect your credit report – which can cause problems when you shop for a major item such as a car, a home, or if you are applying for a job that requires a credit report for employment.

Want to stay secure when shopping from your smartphone? Use the following guidelines to help secure your information when shopping from a mobile device:
  • Use an official online shopping app. Many retailers provide a link to their mobile app on their website. Other apps found your phones’ app store may have placed there by hackers. Some retailers whose apps have been faked include Dillards, Nordstroms, Dollar Tree, and Foot Locker.
  • If shopping from your phone’s browser, check for encryption. The URL will start with https://. The “s” signifies the transmission of your data is protected.
  • Always use a unique login and password for accessing each of your shopping apps. When offered, use two-factor authentication. Change your password frequently. For each account, regularly check your profile information to ensure that is accurate.
  • Install, enable, and update anti-virus software on your smartphone. Click here for a list of free anti-virus apps.
  • Keep your phone's operating system and the apps up-to-date with all patches. Many phones will automatically update the apps for you.
  • Passcode, password, or fingerprint your phone so that only you have access to the phone and the apps installed on it.
  • Monitor your accounts regularly to ensure that all personal information is correct, to validate the orders you have placed, and that the balances are correct.
  • Avoid clicking the links contained in emails. Resources.mobify.com states that 71% of mobile purchasing is influenced by email from retailers. Criminals will mimic a retailer’s email communications to steal your information. Even if it is one that you are subscribed to, always go to the shopping app or the website to ensure that you are not falling victim to a scam.
  • Use a secure wireless connection or your phone carrier’s cellular service when shopping. Unsecured wireless access points such as those found in coffee shops, shopping malls, hotels, and airports are easy targets for criminals to use for stealing a person’s information.
  • Be cautious of online coupons. For those of us who love great deals, this can be especially dangerous. Be wary when downloading a coupon from the Internet or from an email message. These can contain malware that can wreak havoc after you’ve downloaded it. The same is true if you would receive a coupon in a text message. Go directly to the website to download the coupon.
  • Pay with a credit card. Using a credit card instead of a debit card limits your liability. The Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability to $50 for unauthorized charges. If it is your credit card number that is stolen and not the card itself, the Federal Trade Commission states you are not liable for unauthorized use. If you do use a debit card, and you report the unauthorized charges more than two days later, you could be responsible for the first $500; if it is more than 60 days, you could be responsible for all of the charges! It’s always good practice to regularly check all of your financial accounts and verify the charges and balances are correct. 
  • Do not save your payment information in the app. It is far safer to type it in each time.
  • Remove apps you no longer use or need. Regularly “houseclean” the apps installed on your phone. Unused apps can be a source of attack from criminals and can be to steal information that you have stored in your online profile for the app.
  • If you get caught in a mobile shopping scam: 1) contact your bank and credit card company immediately; 2) file a police report; 3) and lodge a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
If you expect to do more online shopping from your mobile device over the next year, the guidelines noted above will help you to protect yourself, your information, and your device(s). 

If you have any questions about cybersecurity or want to learn more about how to stay safe online, please contact University of Miami's Information Security Office (ISO) at: ciso@miami.edu.


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