Warnings for mobile online shoppers

AVG ''security evangelist'' Lloyd Borrett is warning that the growing use of mobile devices for such things as shopping is posing some risks.

''Attention bargain hungers: you're being hunted. Don't forget smartphones are portable computers and like any computer, they can be hacked and attacked for any account, financial and other personal information that might be on them.''

He gave five rules to the Otago Daily Times for mobile shoppers:

(1) Public Wi-Fi is a great means of browsing retailers on the go but be cautious when providing personal information like credit card numbers or passwords. You could be opening a back door to hackers and spammers. Do not give away your credit card details over open unsecured Wi-Fi.

(2) Many smaller mobile devices do not show the full web address, or hide it completely. Hackers are aware of this and may attach information at the end of URLs to lead you to corrupt sites. If the site name is unrecognisable, check before you click.

(3) Whether it is an app for price comparison or an app from your favourite retailer, check with the app's parent company to make sure it is legitimate.

(4) Avoid clicking on suspicious links that claim to offer free products or amazing deals.

(5) Password-protect your private information and data. Mobile devices are easy to lose and a lost phone can put you at risk of a phishing scam or identity theft if your accounts are accessed.

Software

Counterfeit software is becoming an increasingly common problem in New Zealand with consumers being duped into buying fake versions of popular software and games.

It is important that you know what you need to look out for when purchasing software in store or online - particularly as the Christmas sales are in full swing.

A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft provides clear evidence that consumers are becoming more conscious of the risks of using counterfeit software, with one in three people believing it is not as safe as using genuine software.

Counterfeit software is appearing in the market with similar prices and packing to the real products, making it difficult for people to spot the difference.

Microsoft New Zealand national technology officer Mark Rees says piracy is now a huge concern when purchasing software.

''Consumers throughout New Zealand are increasingly coming to us with complaints about counterfeit software and asking what they can do to protect themselves. There are more people being caught out, and as more sophisticated counterfeiting technology becomes available, the harder it becomes to spot a fake.''

Mr Rees provided a checklist to ensure the software bought is genuine:

(1) Buy from a retailer or seller you know and trust.

(2) The general rule of thumb is that it is seems too good to be true, it usually is, especially if the software you want to purchase is much cheaper than from other retailers.

(3) Be wary if the seller is reluctant or will not provide a phone number, address and other pertinent contact details.

(4) When buying online, always look for feedback from other customers. If there is negative feedback, steer clear.
(5) Make sure there is a way to return the product and make sure that you feel confident that your seller will be able to help with after-sales service if there is a problem with the product.
(6) Be wary of stock standard marketing photos that might not be of the actual software you are buying.
(7) If you can, check the product thoroughly before you buy it.
(8) Check you are buying the correct licence for using the software.
(9) A certificate of authenticity is a label that helps identify genuine software.
This is a visual identifier that helps determine whether or not the software you are buying is genuine.
dene.mackenzie@odt.co.nz
Twitter: @mackersline