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Viewpoint: Shopping on public wifi carries a risk

By Dan Hendrickson, Better Business Bureau

In addition to more and more consumers making holiday purchases on smartphones and tablets, consumers often use these devices to decide which products to buy. A common concern with mobile browsing is the safety of the user's internet connection.

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota says, when surfing the web, it's best to use password protected wifi connections. When it comes to making purchases, however, safety should always come first.

Public wifi means public, and your information could be compromised.

Shopping safely on mobile devices during the busy holiday season — and beyond — means following these protocols:

• Remember, making purchases via public wifi connections carries inherent risks. It's best not to do it. Check your smartphone settings to ensure you aren't automatically connecting to open wifi networks.

• Be careful regarding how and where you share your financial information. When shopping online from a secure, private wifi connection, always make sure that you're on a trustworthy website. Do your research at bbb.org.

• Safety first. At the point of purchase, when transacting online, make sure to look for "https" in your browser or a "lock" symbol, as this shows the website is secure.

• Be careful with hyperlinks. Some hyperlinks lead to websites that you do not want to visit or can infect your device with viruses or malware.

• Do not save financial information on your device. Most devices have an "auto-save" or "auto-fill" feature that allows the user to save credit card information for future use. Saving financial information like this can potentially allow easier access to sensitive information.

• Use the most up-to-date browser. Be sure to keep your phone and your preferred web browser updated. Newer updates tend to have better security features on them.

• Pay with a credit card. Credit card transactions are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act.

• Keep a record of your transaction. Keep a separate folder for confirmation emails regarding any online purchases. It might also be a good idea to print out hard copies.

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