27 September 2023

Risky business: The pitfalls of Christmas shopping on your phone

Start the conversation

Jacob Passy* says as Christmas approaches, more and more people are using their mobile devices for online shopping, but there are risks.

Photo: Hannes Edinger

Online shopping is expected to hit new highs this holiday season — and a lot of it will happen on smartphones.

But savvy shoppers may be better off doing their shopping the old-fashioned way.

This year, $1 out of every $5 dollars spent from November through December will go toward an online purchase, according to a forecast from Adobe Digital Insights.

Over a third (36 per cent) of e-commerce sales this year are expected to be made on a smartphone, according to Adobe, a 20 per cent increase from a year ago, and smartphones are expected to account for 47 per cent of overall sales growth during the holiday season in 2019.

In particular, millennials are expected to use their phones for shopping — 69 per cent of millennials said they plan to use their phone to buy holiday gifts rather than desktop computers or laptops, according to a survey from The Harris Poll.

Adobe predicts that Christmas Day will be the first time ever that consumers will make more purchases from their smartphones than from a desktop computer.

But there are some serious downsides to shopping with a smartphone.

Here are some reasons why consumers should avoid smartphone spending — or be smarter about how they do it.

Mobile sites don’t always include all the information you need

There’s a big difference between online shopping on an actual computer versus with a mobile device, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found.

Their study examined what information consumers get from retailers’ websites.

They found that many companies provide less information on the mobile-friendly versions of their websites.

“Sites adjusted for mobile viewing reduce the information offered on the results page and require more digging around in the site for information,” Lior Fink, a Ben-Gurion University professor who co-authored the study, said.

“Sites adjusted for PC viewing give more information right up front.”

Therefore, consumers may want to double check a product on a laptop or desktop before pressing purchase on an item through a mobile device.

Shopping with a mobile app can leave you vulnerable to fraudsters

Criminals have caught on to the mobile shopping trend and have created fake mobile apps designed to steal information from consumers or install malware on to their devices.

Before downloading an app that appears to be a retailer’s, carefully review the description to make sure it is the official app and not one designed to mimic that company.

Lifelock advises only downloading apps from “reputable stores, such as Galaxy Apps, the App Store, Amazon and Google Play”.

“Some providers, such as Google Play, scan apps for malware prior to publishing them on their store.”

Another risk comes with connecting to public WiFi networks when shopping with your smartphone — something people may do when they’re out and about.

Fraudsters can create dummy WiFi networks or hack into public ones and use the connection to gain access to your device.

If they do this, and you then use your phone or tablet to shop, they can take your personal information including your name, address and credit card number to make fraudulent purchases or steal your identity.

People who use mobile wallets spend more money

A growing number of people have begun storing their credit card information in mobile wallets or payment apps such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.

But researchers have found that when people use mobile wallets they start spending more money.

A study of Chinese consumers released in 2018 found that the total amount of money consumers spent went up by more than 2 per cent after they adopted mobile payments.

* Jacob Passy is a reporter for Market Watch. He tweets at @jepassy. His website is jacobpassy.com.

This article first appeared at www.marketwatch.com

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.