Protect yourself while shopping on your phone

Man using credit card to shop on his cell phone

Today's smartphones can accomplish a lot more than when some of the earliest models were introduced nearly one decade ago.

It's actually quite amazing to think about how far these devices have come. In 2007, the first iPhone was unveiled, and at the time, the phone was far ahead of its competition. But looking back, it lacked many features today's smartphones have. The first-generation device didn't have a high-speed data connection, was built with only a 3.50-inch screen and lacked any kind of app store.

Some of these missing features can be attributed to the time when the phone was created, as the technology was not sophisticated enough. Luckily, the iPhone and its competition incorporate much more advanced features today.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 64 percent of the population owns a smartphone [1]. Manufacturers are always looking to build better and more reliable devices so you can handle heavy-duty tasks, with Wired magazine proclaiming in 2015 that it is entirely possible for some individuals to only use a smartphone or tablet instead of a PC or laptop [2].

If that's the case and you find yourself utilizing mobile devices more than a computer, it also means you might find yourself doing your shopping from your phone or tablet. Here are the best ways you can protect yourself while shopping or banking on a smartphone.

Updates are crucial

Apple and Google release major updates to their operating systems on an annual basis and incremental fixes in between. These are important and cannot be ignored every time a notification pops up asking you to update.

Within these updates are new features that enhance the smartphone experience, but important security enhancements are also included. The older a version of an operating system gets, the more vulnerable it becomes and eventually, it stops being supported and likely hackers will find a way to exploit it.

Currently, 84 percent of iOS users are on the latest operating system from Apple, while 16 percent are using an earlier version [3]. The Android OS is more fragmented because updates tend to roll out slower for these devices [4].

No matter what OS you're using, however, always check for updates and don't wait to install them.

This mindset also applies to applications, especially the ones you use to shop or bank with. Developers also tend to introduce new features and update their security to protect you from online threats. Additionally, apps that aren't updated may not always work properly.

Utilize stronger security features

Banking and other apps used to make purchases have taken advantage of what is known as biometric sign-in. This method is essentially the ability to sign in to your account using your device's fingerprint scanner. This adds another layer of security whenever you want to access an app that contains sensitive financial information. Additionally, some services are even utilizing the feature for payment purposes.

Take advantage of using fingerprint scanners on your device because it will help deter thieves, should they get their hands on your phone.

Another tool to consider using is known as two-factor authentication. Essentially, once you enter your normal password into an app or online service, you will be prompted to enter a randomly generated code that is sent to your email or as a text message. This is a good way to protect your account in case someone tries to log into your account.

Know when to use Wi-Fi

Due to certain limits on the amount of cellular data you can use every month, you are likely looking for public Wi-Fi connections whenever possible. After all, going over your data cap can result in you paying overage charges.

However, you have to be careful when you're connecting to public Wi-Fi spots, especially those that do not require a password. When a network isn't protected by a password, it makes it easier for hackers and criminals to steal information.

"Always make sure the Wi-Fi network you're connecting to while in the public is password-protected."

To prevent this, always make sure the Wi-Fi network you're connecting to while in the public is password-protected. If you still feel unsure about the security of a password-protected Wi-Fi spot, stick to using your cellular data if you have some to spare.

Other tips

Some security tips are specific to smartphones and some are general tips to keep in mind. Similar to when you're on a PC, always be on the lookout for suspicious websites and pop-ups. Remember, you don't have to click everything you see.

Luckily, you can keep some tips and best practices in mind to protect yourself when shopping and banking on your smartphone.

[1]. U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015

[2]. In Less Than Two Years, a Smartphone Could Be Your Only Computer

[3]. Apple Developer Page

[4]. Android Developer Page

The information provided in these articles is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as the opinion of Central Bancompany, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and does not imply endorsement or support of any of the mentioned information, products, services, or providers. All information presented is without any representation, guaranty, or warranty regarding the accuracy, relevance, or completeness of the information.