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How to Stay Safe While Shopping on Your Smartphone

Smartphones and other mobile devices have made online shopping easier than ever. With a few taps and swipes, you can find what you need and have it delivered to your door in a matter of days!

However, online shopping isn't totally risk-free. In 2020 alone, consumers reported losing $246 million in online shopping-related scams. If you like to shop with your smartphone, keep these five tips in mind to protect against fraud.

#1: Keep your devices up to date

Every now and then, your smartphone or tablet will ask you to install a new software update. Don't ignore this step! It only takes a few minutes to make your mobile devices more secure and protect against viruses and cyberattacks.

#2: Switch up your passwords

Always use hard-to-crack passcodes for mobile apps and websites, especially when shopping online. Create unique passwords that don't include sequential numbers or personal info like your name or birthdate. The strongest passwords are 15 characters or longer with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Every few months, change your passwords to be on the safe side.

It's also smart to set up a lock screen password to protect your private information in the event your phone or tablet is lost or stolen. Depending on your device, you could use a code, fingerprint or even facial recognition to unlock your screen.

#3: Only shop on secure Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi in coffee shops, airports and restaurants may be convenient, but you should never use it for online shopping. Because public Wi-Fi networks are not encrypted, hackers can steal your private data, such as your passwords or credit card information. You're better off shopping online at home using a connection that you know is secure.

#4: Watch out for phony ads and retailers

Scammers are creating phony websites that look like real online stores and advertising designer products at unbelievably low prices. Be careful—you could end up with a knock-off product or nothing at all.

As you're scrolling social media, watch out for misleading ads that lead to unfamiliar online retailers. You know what they say: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! When in doubt, stick with the stores that you know and trust. Also, make sure you're only shopping on websites that have “https" in the address bar. ​The “s" on the end indicates a site is secure.

#5: Check your accounts regularly

Keeping a close eye on the accounts you use for online shopping can help you spend wisely and spot fraudulent activity. For example, scammers will often “test" stolen credit card numbers by charging a few cents at a time. By monitoring your accounts once a day, you can catch these small charges early—before more damage is done. Another tip is to sign up for account alerts that notify you of transactions over a certain amount. It's easy to set up custom text or email reminders with eAlerts through WPCU's Mobile and Online Banking.

Be fraud smart

By taking these steps, you can protect yourself from fraud and enjoy a safer onli​ne shopping experience! To find more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and information about the latest scams, visit our Fraud Education and Prevention page.