November 2, 2015

The holiday season is fast approaching and that means shopping for gifts and holiday buying.  It’s difficult to imagine another year is just about in the bag.

For the first time in history, the majority of holiday shopping will be accomplished on-line; shoppers turning to their mobile devices to browse and purchase items for family and friends.   According to the National Retail Federation, forty percent (40%) of consumers used their Smartphones to make purchasing decisions in 2014 during the holiday season.  This trend is now known as mobile commerce or m-commerce.  Smartphones will, for the most part, be their device of choice for this activity.  According to Adobe, one-third of the holiday sales will be consummated online.  This blows my mind but certainly follows trends solidly established in our country and over the world. People LOVE their Smartphones.   Let’s take a quick look:

  • Total online sales are up eleven percent (11%) from last year and e-commerce using mobile devices is projected to be eighty-three billion dollars ($83 billion) by the end of this year.
  • Cyber Monday is projected to produce three billion dollars ($3 billion) in sales alone.
  • The average Internet shopper will spend $305.00 in November and December alone. This is an all-time record for online mobile shopping.
  • Shopping by mobile device is estimated to be one trillion dollars ($1 trillion) by the year 2019. This represents a thirty-eight percent (38%) growth rate.
  • According to Master Card, more than one-quarter of the global community will use Smartphone in 2015 for browsing and on-line purchases.

This trend is producing significant identify theft and outright fraud.  Thieves hacking into mobile devices and scams being perpetrated against on-line users, but there are processes that can be accomplished to minimize and even eliminate mobile fraud.  The list may be somewhat commonsense but bears producing.

  • Look for indicators that a retailer’s website is secure, such as a lock icon on the status bar or a web address beginning with http://
  • Use caution when shopping on a Wi-Fe hot spot. If you are on an unsecured network, other users can see what you see and what you send.
  • Remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Know the seller before you commit to purchase.
  • Do not click on pop-up ads or links in unsolicited e-mails.
  • Do not provide personal information via e-mail. Instead, call the business at the number given on their web site to confirm the request.
  • Consider checking your accounts on-line periodically to make sure you can spot any fraudulent activity. (Do this frequently.)
  • Make sure your phone is password protected. Use strong passwords, and change them frequently.
  • Make sure the virus scan detection software on your Smartphone is current.
  • Use a find-your-phone app to recover a lost Smartphone. There are several instances of Smartphones being recovered even due to theft.
  • Disable automatic connections from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Be very careful of vendors you do not know or recognize. Before purchase, check them out.
  • Beware of the “package tracking scam.” The e-mail looks like it’s from the U.S. Postal Service — but it’s not. The email says you missed a delivery but, if you print the attached form and take it to your local post office; you can pick up your package and avoid penalties. The message might also include a link for more details. OK, here’s the truth: the email is bogus and there is no package. And if you download the attachment or click on a link, you’re likely to end up with a virus or malware on your device. Con artists often use the names and logos of familiar organizations to get under your guard. So how do you tell what’s legit and what’s a scam? Here are some ways to spot a bogus email:
    • It tells you to click on a link or download an attachment
    • It urges you to take immediate action
    • It asks you to “re-confirm” personal or financial information
    • Another sure sign an email is a scam? If you hover over the link in the email, it won’t show the official website of the supposed sender — in this case, the U.S. Postal Service website.
  • Only install trusted apps on your Smartphone and mobile device. Check them out prior to installation.
  • Stop advertisers from tracking you. Both Apple and Android have recently introduced new ways for advertisers to deliver targeted ads to us. This sounds like bad news, but the good part is that, given widespread consumer outrage on the issues, both companies have shown backbone and designed the new protocols to keep the data anonymous and to make it easier for individuals to opt out from tracking. If you’re an iPhone user, you need to go into Settings, then click Privacy, and then scroll all the way down to Advertising. You’ll see a button labeled says, “Limit ad tracking.” If it’s not showing a green color, click the button so that it shows green. This will stop ad companies from tracking what you do with your phone and serving up targeted ads.  Right underneath that, incidentally, you’ll see the “Reset Advertising Identifier.” Clicking on that will zero out the anonymous identifier as relates to your personal data. To trackers, you will then appear to be a new user. Now let’s go to Android. The new Google “AdID” system has similar intents – and is similarly difficult to find. Here, you don’t go to your Android phone settings, but your Google Settings app. Look for the Ads link. There, as with the iPhone, you’ll be able both to reset your advertising ID and click on a box to “opt out of interest based ads.”
  • Wipe your old phone before donating or selling. (This is big—don’t forget.)
  • None of the on-line vendors require your social security number or your birthdate to consummate a purchase. Don’t give it to them.

I certainly hope all of your shopping, holiday and otherwise, is less than challenging and you have no issues with identify theft and fraud.  Take care and as always, I welcome your comments.

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