Better Business Bureau: Mobile Apps for Children

As a new, younger generation comes online, the Better Business Bureau warns parents that some mobile applications for smartphones and tablets may be siphoning children's data and sharing it. In most cases, developers are not disclosing whether data is being collected, with whom it is being shared or how it is used.



CHILDRENS' APPS

A study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission found that nearly 60 percent of children's applications available from the iTunes store and Google Play that were examined by researchers "failed to provide any information about the data collected through the app, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection and who would obtain access to the data." The data collected and shared can include the child's location, telephone number, contacts, device ID and other information contained on the mobile device. More worrying, according to the FTC, is that some applications offer the ability to make purchases and provide links to social media "without disclosing these features prior to download." So we recommend that parents research before downloading apps, especially "free" apps.



ONLINE COUPON

Searching for coupons online is an easy way to save money. Unfortunately, it's also an easy way to give your name and contact info to scammers. Be sure to verify a coupon deal is real before sharing your information. For instance: You need to make a purchase, but you hope to save money by finding a coupon online. A Google search turns up dozens of websites. Most of the online coupons promise a modest 10- to 15-percent discount. But one offers a significantly better deal: 50 percent off your purchase. If you go for it and they asked you to enter your email address and telephone number, promising that your coupon will be sent to you, you may be in trouble. If your information is sold, you will start receiving spam calls, text messages or emails from various promoters.



ONLINE TICKETS

Ah, another major sports event is on the calendar. Between now and Super Bowl Sunday, that would be Feb. 3, thousands of tickets will be listed on classifieds and on websites offering buyers little protection from dishonest sellers. Better Business Bureau suggests making a game plan. Avoid scams by being skeptical of:

Offers that sound "too good to be true"

Pushy sales tactics

Offers that require wire transfer of funds

So where can you turn? Choose reliable and verifiable sellers and resellers. Sites such as Ticketmaster and Stub Hub who guarantee your tickets' authenticity. Remember, last minute tickets will be expensive. And always check out a business first at the Better Business Bureau website. Oh, yes, also beware of phony accommodation ads.



E-RECEIPTS

Some retailers have started offering customers the option to receive receipts from purchases via email. While this can be a convenient alternative to printed receipts, Better Business Bureau is reminding shoppers to keep their identity safe in the process.

E-receipts save retailers money, and make it easier for you to electronically file your receipts away. But beware of what else you could receive in your inbox. Businesses may send junk mail filled with surveys, coupons and other promotional offers, or they could use your information to build profiles on demographics and buying habits. Additionally, having receipts emailed to you can make you more susceptible to phishing and other identity theft scams. Scammers can easily pose as retailers using realistic-looking emails that direct you to click on a link. For shoppers interested in paperless, e-receipts Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

Ask how the business plans to use your information.

Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date.

Confirm your e-receipt has been delivered.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.