Mobile Safety for the Holidays

It’s literally a brand new world when it comes to Holiday shopping this year. You’ll be surprised at how many of us are using our mobile phones and tablets to help us gather up gifts and get the biggest bang for our hard earned bucks. You’ll also be surprised at some of the hazards that come with the territory. Bottom line:  You can never be too careful.

American-born physicist Michio Kaku says that today our cell phones have “more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969 when it sent two astronauts to the moon.”  This is a startling reality into today’s fast-paced world and how much processing power we possess on these ubiquitous little computers we carry around with us. You may, in fact, be one of the millions who are using mobile devices for your holiday shopping needs this season. Here are some of the things we are doing:

  • Scanning bar codes is extremely popular this year. Shoppers are finding the best prices and checking out product reviews and ratings right in the store.
  • QR Codes, those maze-like looking square boxes that people scan with their mobile devices, provide customers with loads of information, from how-to videos, consumer reviews, and price comparisons. 
  • Coupons are still popular as ever, but instead of cut-outs from newspapers, folks are using their mobile devices to download discount coupons. An array of apps are available – like Groupon and Cellfire – that are giving savvy shoppers the upper hand in purchasing power this holiday season.
  • Location-based deal apps provide shoppers that are scurrying from one place to another the advantage of tracking deals and special sales at the exact location they happened to be at!
  • Some stores and restaurants will even provide text messages to their customers, luring them with deals, promotions, and 2-for-1ers. 

But with all these ultra-convenient ways to do your mobile shopping, there are risks involved.  A report by Lookout, a company dedicated to safe mobile use, recently reported on their blog that during the first half of 2011 “more than one hundred thousand phishing attacks, targeting frequently visited social networking sites like banking sites, government agencies and donation websites took place.  The same source states that 1% of Facebook users have been victims of phishing attacks.  That doesn’t sound like much, but if you do the math, that is upwards of over 5 million Facebook users!  

Mobile phishing attacks of this type are more frequent than anyone might think, and this presents a challenge simply because it is generally more difficult to spot a phishing site on a mobile device.  A Blackberry phone, for example, doesn’t even display a URL bar, so there’s no way to check to see if the website you’ve been directed to is legit or not. 

This means that this Holiday season, while using your mobile devices to search for the best deals, you need to be extra cautious that the links you’re clicking and the information you’re sending out is not for the benefit of crooks and no-goodniks that want to steal your information, your identity, and your money.  Scams to be aware of include:

  • Hackers are creating their own fraudulent donation sites during this season of giving; asking you to make a donation to a well-known charity that only goes to the hacker, not the charity.
  • Attackers send emails that ask you to update information on your account.  Maybe it’s Paypal, your bank, or a retail outlet where you have a credit card.   Once you click on the link to a the web page, it may look legit, but if you look closer, the company name might be slightly off by one or two letters on the URL, or the familiar company logo might be slightly off-color or odd in some way. The page will have spaces to you to enter information that a legitimate site would never ask you for. 
  • Links are popping up on Facebook and other social networking sites asking you to click, click, click, and provide all kinds of information about yourself, your accounts, and your passwords.

Also, make sure you know who is sending you the link.  If it’s unknown source, it’s best not to click, no matter how tempting the offer might be.  If you have already clicked on a link, be sure to check the URL in your mobile browser, and try to determine if it’s a real site.  Remember that legitimate sites, such as the Red Cross and other disaster donation and charity sites, rarely ask you for a Pin code, drivers’ license, phone number, or your date of birth.  Be sure to look carefully at any site you’re on.  If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.  Any bank or financial services website that asks you to input account information and password should have a secure symbol – normally a lock logo in the address bar or “HTTPS” at the front of the URL address.

You should also download an application on your mobile device that can check every website you visit to ensure your safety and the safety of your information.  Your best bet is to make sure you maintain holiday safety with Norton by simply installing Norton Mobile Security. Not only does it protect you from malicious sites, but it also protects your physical mobile device if it gets lost or stolen.

There are more options available than ever this year on getting great deals during your holiday shopping sprees.  Using your mobile device will not just save you money, but will also save you time. But as you navigate these options, be wary and aware of the scams that are as prevalent as ever. Be smart, patient, focused, and protected.