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A guide to safer online shopping via your smartphone

We've compiled a list of five tips to ensure your safety when you’re shopping via your smartphone. Follow these and you'll drastically reduce the chances of anyone stealing personal information stored in your phone.

1. Don't buy anything while connected to public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi networks aren't encrypted, which means anyone can eavesdrop on what you send. Anyone! All a black hat hacker needs is a free packet-sniffer which captures packets of data across unsecured networks. So really, avoid looking at anything on your mobile device that you wouldn't want the guy next to you in the coffee shop to see.

2. Use discretion when downloading payment apps

There's a dizzying variety of mobile payment apps out there, but before you download any, be sure to check out the ratings, read the reviews, and search online for any claims of being scammed.

When in doubt, use apps provided directly by your bank, credit card company, or retailer (such as Amazon). Most mobile malware comes from downloading legitimate looking apps from third-party app stores. Which brings us onto…

3. Go through legitimate app stores only

Don't look for cheap shortcuts. When downloading any app, make sure it's from a legitimate app store like Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and Amazon's store; these official stores use some sort of vetting process to weed out malicious apps (Apple and Amazon do it pre-emptively, Google does it retroactively).

4. Never enter personal information on a site that begins with only “http://”

If a website asks for your credit card information, always check that the web address begins with “https” which means the site has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. On unsecured networks (those that have only have “http://”), a hacker can easily steal personal information like usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers.

5. Be careful where you click

Just as with a PC, be selective when deciding whether to click on links within emails, SMS, and social networking sites that ask for your personal information. It’s a good idea to install a mobile security app which will scan links for malware and phishing, but these are still fallible, so you should always use your common sense and judgement. Above all, if anything even looks slightly fishy, don’t risk it.

Also check out our handy tips on staying secure when you shop online, most of which are very relevant to mobile shopping as well.