All crazy news stories aside, there are actually people who enjoy planning out their Black Friday shopping. And despite the occasional headlines about shoppers misbehaving or deranged crowds of consumers, most people have a somewhat more productive experience. It’s a great time to save a lot of money on your holiday spending, especially with some diligent planning ahead. Unfortunately, the hectic pacing and the semi-chaos of Black Friday crowds can also mean permanent loss for your smartphone or other devices—and even your identifying information—if you don’t take some precautions.
With the increase in online shopping—especially on mobile phones—consumers are growing more accustomed to buying through their small screens. But there are a few key things to be aware of so you don’t lose your device, or worse, your identity.
In all of your shopping holiday preparations, it’s a good idea to download the retailers’ dedicated apps if you plan to make purchases or download coupons while you’re out. Some companies even offer in-store incentives during their sales events, making your need to check your phone all the more likely. By using the retailers’ apps—downloaded ahead of time from your device’s recognized app store, while connected over your own WiFi—you can rest assured that the site you’re browsing or paying through is genuine. Simply Googling “Target coupons” while you’re standing in line isn’t the best way to take advantage of good deals, but it is a good way to be led to third-party scam websites.
Another way to store up the necessary information on your phone is to bookmark the websites you plan to visit as favorites before you head to the stores. That way, simply opening your browser screen will display your list of stored searches. You won’t hold up the line looking for that coupon, but you also won’t open yourself up to the risks associated with being distracted in a crowded place. You’ll also know that the website you bookmarked is a secured HTTPS site, so paying online will be safer.
It goes without saying that you never text and drive, but trying to text or shop online while walking through a busy shopping center filled with other hurried people is almost as dangerous. Pay attention to others around you, and try to save your phone shopping for when you have a few minutes to duck off to the side and conduct your transaction safely. Be aware of your surroundings as you do, though, and watch out for anyone who’d like to snatch your purse, your purchases, or even the phone from your hand. For this same reason, it’s not a good idea to play on your phone while passing the wait time, even if a game of Candy Crush or updating your status on Facebook makes the time go by faster.
Before you head out for the crazy fun and savings of Black Friday, remember to take a few steps to protect your device itself. Passcode protect it to keep others out of it, and enable the “find my phone” option in case it does go missing. If you did have to connect to WiFi in public via your smartphone, be sure to uncheck the “connect automatically” box so that you don’t inadvertently connect again the next time you’re in the area. You should also be sure that you are always using a VPN on your mobile device when connecting to public WiFi.
Finally, save as much of your sensitive transactions—like checking your financial accounts or any unplanned, unsecured shopping—for the safety and security of your own home and your own network.