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Stay safe when hitting the online sales

My very wise Nana was a sucker for a bargain with the motto “the more you spend, the more you save.” I don’t know about you, but that serves a good enough excuse to hit up the post-Christmas sales in search for that ‘lucrative’ bargain. If you’re like me however, the thought of parking hassles, screaming children, and crowds (oh god the crowds!) make sales shopping a not-so-festive experience.

Luckily, 2012 was the year of the smartphone- safe shopping from reliable vendors, all purchased during my peak-hour commute. Suddenly all of the random things I desperately needed were right at my finger-tips. In fact, all those happy items were hiding inside my phone- only a few clicks away from being in my hot little hands.

It seems I’m not the only person aboard the m-commerce bandwagon. Around $2.1 billion a year is spent nationally on fashion and electronics via mobile devices. One in five Australians ticked off their Christmas lists via mobile, purchasing everything from candy to cars from the palm of their hand.

For a world that’s devouring the smart phone (shipments are up 45% from 2011 or 718 million new units globally), this should come as no surprise. No longer are online shopping hours confined to times when you’re in front of the computer, mobile shopping is for all of those moments in between.

But as financial transactions migrate to smart phones, so do the cybercrims who (quite literally) stole Christmas in 2012. Alongside quicker purchasing decisions stemming from daily deals and ‘blink or you’ll miss it’ online sales, comes an ambivalence from the cyber security precautions that you would normally take when buying online. So step back a minute, and check the following tips to ensure a stress free sales period.

Check your Wi-Fi settings

Open Wi-Fi networks (or those that require no password to authenticate) are particularly simple for cybercriminals to crack; allowing the bad guys access to the data that flows through them. Problematically, many phones and other devices are set by default to automatically connect to these unsecure networks when in range. While open networks are fine for anything that’s not confidential, it’s best to avoid them for financial transactions such as banking or shopping. Mobile device settings should be that your permission is sought before joining networks. Overall, when making purchases it’s best to stick to the 3G or 4G network that your carrier provides.

Lock your doors

What’s the biggest threat to your mobile phone? Losing it. Alongside everything you purchase on your phone sits private (and often sensitive) information. Put a pass-code on your phone and set it to auto lock when not in use. Check for updates to your phone’s operating system and install them as soon as they’re available. Lastly, make a note of your IMEI number (*#06#) so you can instantly report your mobile as missing in the event of accidental loss or theft.

Plastic fantastic

Only pay by Paypal or with a credit card- both have built in security in case disaster strikes. Remember to never transfer money into the account of a seller or send your credit card details over email. Always check for the padlock on the payment page to ensure your transaction is secure; the padlock means your details are scrambled during transit, avoiding any snooping eyes.

Check the small print

Exchanges might be free of charge, but you may get slugged on postage and experience lengthy delays before your money is refunded. Check the seller’s refund policy before you hand over your hard earned dosh. Keep your e-receipts in a backed up folder in case you need them for warranty purposes, and double check your credit card statements to ensure the purchase price equals the debit on your card.

With those tips in mind (and your credit card in hand) you’re ready to board the m-commerce bandwagon to Bargainville.  If only Nana could see us now!

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