NCL Technology Issues
Smartphones and the Internet can make your holiday shopping faster and easier, but there can also be pitfalls if you're not careful. The good news is there are ways to ensure you have a safe shopping experience, so that gift-giving is a joyous occasion, not an opportunity for cyber thieves.
Most consumers know that the day after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday” – the day that shopping malls and big box retailers across the country are packed with bargain-hunters looking for holiday gifts. When all those shoppers go back to work the Monday after Thanksgiving, online retailers will be ready with deals to capitalize on “Cyber Monday” – one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.
Unfortunately, scam artists will also be waiting to lure the unwary into divulging sensitive personal information and sending money for nonexistent products. Every year, we receive complaints from consumers that saw deals that were too good to pass up online. Instead of a holiday gift for a friend or loved one, these consumers all too often end up with nothing but a lighter wallet.
This year, with more and more shoppers using mobile devices to do some or all of their holiday shopping, we’re warning consumers to be on the lookout for a growing number of mobile ecommerce scams.
More than half of all U.S. wireless users now have smartphones and 45 million consumers are using shopping and ecommerce apps. According to Nielsen year-on-year use of mobile apps for commerce and shopping increased by 89% in 2012. In the past year, there were more than 8 million downloads of the Amazon Mobile app 5 million downloads of the eBay app alone.
Consumers should be on the lookout for the following scams targeted at holiday shoppers.
- Holiday phishing and SMSishing scams – Scammers will likely try to take advantage of bargain hunters by sending out phishing emails and text messages (known as “SMSishing”) offering seemingly unbeatable deals on holiday gifts, particularly hard-to-find toys (check out Toys R Us’ “Hot Toy List” for examples). Clicking on these links may lead to phishing sites that install mobile malware or seek to get credit card or other sestitive information from consumers.
- Bogus online coupons – Clipping coupons out of the newspaper is so last century. Today’s savvy consumers are increasingly relying on coupon apps and coupons specifically designed for storage on smartphones. Watch out of suspicious emails or online ads offering these coupons, as they could lead to mobile malware sites.
- Phony social network promotions – Consumers using their phones to check in on Facebook or other social networks are likely to be shown ads for a variety of holiday deals, gifts, giveaways and promotions. We wary when clicking on these ads, particularly if doing so prompts you to download an unfamiliar app to your phone.
- QR codes – QR codes are the square images, resembling barcodes, that are increasingly found online, in print, and on outdoor signs. Scanning these barcodes with a smartphone camera can the user a mobile website or download an app. Recently, scammers have begun to take advantage of this technology to send consumer malware apps that can surreptitiously sign the user up for premium text message services, among other scams.
- Unsecured WiFi networks – Most smartphones are designed to operate on a carrier’s cellular network as well as on WiFi hotspots. When connected to a public hotspot, be careful entering sensitive information into online shopping sites and applications since the connection is not secure and a scammer could be snooping on the network.
Extra credit! In addition to staying safe while shopping on mobile devices, make sure to also check out NCL’s tip sheet on spotting traditional online shopping scams.