Smarty Pants

The chicGeek’s top tips to safe smartphone shopping this fashion season.

What fashion diva doesn’t jump for joy upon finding a great deal on some of the hottest fall trends? And these days, you’re just as likely to show off your shopping prowess with your smartphone in hand as you are in an actual shopping mall. Maybe that’s why mobile shopping (aka mCommerce) is expected to increase by a whopping $25 billion over the next five years—that, and the fact that it’s much more convenient to shop the season’s latest denim while on the go (waiting for a plane, in a work meeting, you name it) or from the comfort of your couch…in your pajamas…without a bulky laptop weighing you down.

With all the advances in how we shop, chic and savvy buyers can nab deals on the hottest online looks from virtually anywhere—but there’s a darker side (and we’re not talking dark washed denim here). mCommerce can pose some serious security questions. But don’t holster your smartphone just yet. Read on for the lowdown on avoiding the potential perils of mobile purchasing.

A few bits of common sense can save thousands.
Sure, any good fashionista (or fashionisto) likes to take risks when it comes to fashion, but common sense prevails when shopping for it online. Many of the same online shopping principles also apply to shopping from a mobile website or app. Here’s what you need to know:

Rule 1: Guard that gorgeous little gem of a phone. Just like computer software, be sure to keep your phone updated—and password-protected. Otherwise, all the mobile purchases you’ve made could come back to bite you.

Rule 2: Keep it safe, silly. It seems those fiercest in fashion can be somewhat predictable when it comes to password behavior. Things like your birthday, the names of your children or pets or anything simple followed by a number do not a secure password make. Many online thefts occur simply because a password was easy to guess. Although it may not always be true for fashion, when it comes to passwords, creative and wacky is always good! Use unusual and long passwords—and use different ones for each account. Of course, keep them stored in a safe place. We like KeePass, a free program you can download to store passwords on your computer.

Rule 3: Make safe connections. When shopping, stick with your phone provider’s network connection if you can because it’s more secure than Wi-Fi. Definitely avoid public Wi-Fi connections (like those at Starbucks) as they allow fairly easy access to your phone. Before making a purchase, be sure you see an HTTPS instead of an HTTP in your URL window—this is also important for protecting your important digits.

Rule 4: Only go with the best.
Your fave fashion brands have a good rep for a reason—and so do reputable mobile sites or shopping apps. If you aren’t sure if the site is legit, check with the Better Business Bureau or a reputable online review site. A reputable company will never ask you to email your credit card or other sensitive information—so don’t trust one that requests information via email. And remember: If an offer seems way too good to be true, it probably is!

Rule 5: Be transaction-savvy. When paying, always use your credit card instead of your debit card. This is true whether you’re on a laptop, a mobile website or an app. Credit cards usually offer more fraud protection and don’t offer direct access to your bank account.

Rule 6: Be like Guinness (and make your own book of records). Good records help if you ever need to return the item or (gulp) become an unwitting victim of an online crime. Be sure to take a screenshot of your order page—this is easy to do from most smartphones. While snapping that image, also take note of the purchase time, receipt numbers and transaction details.

Rule 7: Read the fine print. It’s a hard and cold fact that not all of your great online finds will hold up to your exacting standards. In order to avoid a pricey or inconvenient return, be sure to read the shipping and return policy before you make the order.

Rule 8: Don’t fall for it. Beware of “smishing,” or SMS text scams (similar to email “phishing” on your computer) that try to get you to click on a nefarious link or reply. When in doubt, contact the vendor via an alternate means to verify whether a shady text is real or fake.

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