Technology

Safe Ways to Shop on Your Smart Phone

Follow these do's and don'ts to protect yourself when making mobile payments.

Smart phones make it so easy to get things done while you're on the go. When you're stuck in traffic, you can purchase airplane tickets for a trip you've been planning. Or while you're waiting in the car line to pick up your kids, you can order new school clothes for them.

More and more people are making purchases on their phones -- $1.2 billion in purchases in 2009, up from $396 million in 2008, according to ABI Research. However, consumers aren't always taking the proper precautions while shopping (or making any financial transaction) on mobile devices. To protect yourself, follow these do's and don'ts provided by CreditCards.com, an online credit-card marketplace.

Do's

--Use a credit card, instead of having purchases billed to your phone, to make purchases because they provide more security. If someone gets your credit-card information and goes on a spending spree, your liability is capped at $50 (Visa and MasterCard assume all liability for unauthorized purchases). Also, if you have a dispute with a merchant -- for example, you're not satisfied with the quality of an item you've purchased or there's a billing error -- you may have an easier time working out a solution if you paid with a credit card. You'll get the least protection if you use prepaid retail gift card or have purchases billed to your phone because they are not required by law to offer consumer protection against fraud or billing disputes.

--Use secure passwords or codes to protect your phone from hackers or unauthorized users.

--Change passwords every few months and don't use easy-to-crack passwords (such as your name or birth date).

--Ask mobile-payment application providers about purchase protections to find out how safe your transaction is.

Don'ts

--Don't auto-save login information because thieves could make purchases with your phone if it's lost or stolen.

--Don't assume that the cell-phone service provider is responsible for transactions you make. Contact the merchant if a dispute arises.

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