By Dennis Jones
Maybe, you haven’t noticed, but the holiday shopping season is starting earlier and getting longer than ever. Historically, Black Friday has been the day to kick off the shopping season, with big-box stores rolling out their holiday specials. Though for some time now, we’ve been in the midst of Christmas creep.
If you haven’t heard of Christmas creep, you’re probably not alone. It’s the phenomenon in which retailers are introducing Christmas-themed buying experiences (i.e. holiday sales) earlier than ever, sometimes as soon as you hang up your Halloween jack-o’-lantern, or bury them back in the pumpkin patch. As an aside: although U.S. consumers started buying later in the year, due to the U.S. presidential election, advertisers and marketers didn’t hesitate to flood the airwaves during the electoral clash.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the expansion of the holiday shopping calendar is happening alongside a huge uptick in online shopping, which is now the primary shopping mode. Moreover, an ever increasing amount of that online shopping is happening on mobile devices. Of course, that’s been a huge boon for consumer convenience and choice, but it’s also led to a measurable increase in the number of unsecured, financial purchases done over free Wi-Fi hotspots.
So, what are the mobile security risks? And what can consumers do to stay safe? The risks of online shopping begin with the retail apps themselves, which tend to be configured to automatically store payment and personal data. Sure, that’s much easier for the user than having to keep inputting personal and credit card information. But imagine if your device is lost or gets stolen – there goes your personal information.
Since we know no one is going to stop shopping online on their mobile device any time soon, here are five precautions we can all take to stay safe during the very long holiday shopping season.
- Steer clear of free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is open and unsecure in nature, which make free Wi-Fi hotspots great targets for hackers.
- Update your apps regularly. Yes, it might be a pain, but do it anyway. Sometimes, app developers release security upgrades to address known vulnerabilities.
- Password-protect your mobile devices. And I don’t advise using a-b-c-1-2-3 just because it’s easy to remember. Make sure to use a strong pin that you’ll remember to give you that extra bit of protection.
- Stick to reputable apps. If you’re going to exchange money online, stick to industry leaders, Venmo, PayPal or Apple Pay.
- Use credit over debit, when possible. Credit card companies tend to offer stronger fraud protections.