Woman shopping on her cell phone in one hand and holding a credit card in the other hand

April 18, 2018

5 Quick Tips for Shopping on Your Mobile Device Securely

This article was updated on November 13, 2019. 

Like growing numbers of consumers, you may be relying more and more on your smartphone as a convenient shopping tool, both online and at checkout in physical stores.

Cyber Monday in 2018 reached a record high with $7.9 billion in sales online with mobile devices accounted for $2.83 billion in sales for the day, another high — 36 percent of all sales, according to Adobe

Not only can you enjoy a more secure mobile shopping experience, but done the right way, using your smart device may be safer than making purchases with cash or via your laptop or personal computer, said Briane Grey, City National Bank's manager of corporate security.

A significant amount of credit card fraud happens on personal computers, which generally aren't updated as frequently as smartphones and are therefore easier to hack, he notes, citing an upswing in illicit "card not present" transactions using stolen account numbers.

A smartphone may provide better security in a physical store as well.

“I wouldn't carry cash unless I have to," Grey said. “Once cash is stolen or lost it's gone."

If you're part of the growing group of mobile shoppers, it's important to remember a few key moves to help secure your sensitive data and finances. And if not, keep these safety measures in mind anyway, as you may well find yourself catching the mobile shopping wave.

Use the Mobile Wallet Feature

Use Apple Pay or Samsung Pay — depending on your particular phone — rather than a credit card to buy your cappuccino. These mobile wallet apps "have an enormous security advantage, because when you pay at the point of sale you're never letting go of the credit card number," he said.

Many bricks-and-mortar shops are set up to accept Apple Pay or Samsung Pay at the point of sale, or checkout, where credit card fraud events typically occur.

Secure Your Phone with Instant Touch ID

Protect your device with touch ID or facial recognition, making sure it locks after use.

Consumers with newer Apple or Android phones likely have the option of using thumb-print or facial recognition to open their devices, which provides an important security layer.

Combined with secure wallets like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, these identification features can help keep your shopping experience secure. Grey recently used his thumbprint with Apple Pay to buy a pizza using a local restaurant's app.

"There's no surface to be attacked by a bad guy," he said.

Your thumb print and facial recognition information never leave your phone, Grey said, noting that many financial institutions now use touch ID or facial recognition in their mobile banking apps. “I feel very confident about those data points staying secure."

The newest phones offer substantial improvement in security features, Grey said. “The industry is really coming around to providing consumers a lot more features and a lot more options."

Keep Your Device and Apps up to Date

“Not only adopt and embrace new payments technologies like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but also continue to pursue the newest upgrades, like automatic updates to applications and updates to the operating system," Grey said.

Set your device to automatically install updates, which should help ensure your smartphone has the newest security measures in place.

While people can go years without updating a PC, Grey noted, smartphones essentially force customers to update — and to replace the product — more frequently.

Pay Attention to Your Privacy Settings and Technology Agreements

Since mobile apps may be gathering data about your usage, such as browsing history and personal data, configure the privacy settings on your device and apps so you can keep control of the information you may be sharing, and delete apps you don't need.

“The consumer does have a lot of control over how much information is shared if you just pay attention to the agreements that you sign, and then you can turn on or off a lot of those features in the phone or in the application itself," Grey said.

Back up Your Data and Set up Location Services

Whether you use iCloud, Google Drive or another service, back up your data to the cloud continuously in the event you lose information, functionality or the device itself.

If your phone is lost or stolen, services like iCloud and Google Drive ensure that you have a copy of all your important information stored elsewhere for you to access. Make sure to enable the "find my phone" or similar option on your device. This type of service can help you find and lock your device or erase your sensitive data.

Taking a few key steps — using a secure mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay and fingerprint or facial-recognition authentication technology, keeping your phone and apps updated, backing up your data, enabling "find my phone" features, and paying attention to your privacy settings — can help turn your smartphone into a convenient and more secure mobile shopping tool.

If your information could have been compromised during a data breach, be sure to read what steps you can take to protect yourself after a data breach.

This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.

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