The ability to transfer money through mobile apps is growing in popularity, especially as more new services are created to make it possible. There are two popular apps that people are turning to, which means there’s also a growing opportunity for fraud and theft.
Instead of people watching you pass along cash, there are hackers watching your transactions when you use these apps. Like any online transaction, there are inherent risks for someone to either take your money or find a way to access your account whenever they want. Taking a few precautions now can save you time, money and a big headache later.
Jason Glassberg, a cybersecurity expert and co-founder of Casaba Security recently told Travel and Leisure that individuals should “think of hackers like car thieves—they’re much more likely to steal a vehicle with the key in the ignition and windows down than one that’s locked and alarmed.”
Keeping your accounts secure on any of these peer-to-peer apps can be simple and keep pesky scammers away. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself on Venmo, PayPal, Cash, Apple Pay, and Google Wallets.
Use a complex password. Yeah, it’s tempting to want to use one password for several accounts. Simple passwords are easier to remember, but complex ones are more difficult to hack. Choose a unique password—one that’s long and confusing. We recommend using a password vault to generate and store passwords (vaults like 1Password and LastPass will even sync your passwords between devices), and then just retrieve them as you need them.
The generated passwords can be long multi-character creations like DJ!&a9m1jqz* or diminish-coffee-whale-nodule. You won’t remember them, but that’s what the password vault is for.
Or if you need to, you can always create a long passphrase that you’ll easily remember, like ILeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco. It will be easier to crack than a random password, but it’s a lot harder than if you’d used passw0rd!.
Set up two-factor authentication. This is where, after you fill in your password, the app texts you a 6-digit code. Fill in that 6-digit code on the app, and you’re in. This way, if your ID and password are known to someone else, they still need your phone to finish the transaction. In other words, the app is “double-checking” to make sure it’s you.
Once you’ve started the transaction, double-check and triple-check to make sure the details are accurate. Accounts can be created to look almost identical to the one you’re looking for, so use caution. Remember: once you send a payment, the money leaves your account and cannot be returned. If necessary, call the person you’re sending the money to in order to confirm their receipt.
In order for these apps to send money, they need to be linked to a financial source. Your safest choice? Use a credit card and not a debit card. Credit cards offer a lot more protection than a bank’s debit card. For one thing, you could be responsible for all the missing funds with a debit card, but the credit card may charge you as much as $50 for fraudulent charges. Keep in mind that some credit cards may charge a processing fee to use it, but you’ll get peace of mind for as much as 1–3 percent.
The network you use is just as important as the card, password and authentication process you choose. Financial transactions on public wifi networks (airports, restaurants, libraries) are at increased risk. You’re better off using a password protected wifi or your cellular network increases your safety (turn off the wifi on your phone to make sure you’re only using the cellular network). And remember to update your apps and operating system because newer versions offer more protection than older software.
Turn on notifications for your finance apps and you’ll be alerted to any issues as soon as they happen. The more you know about your accounts, the better, and the sooner you can get them resolved. Even something as simple as receiving a text for every transaction can keep you updated on your account.
When you’re finished with your transaction, be sure to completely sign out of your account, don’t just close the app. By not signing out, your session remains active and someone can open the window and still be logged in.
Finally, one option is to have only one device strictly for payments. A separate smartphone will keep you safer since you’re not visiting other websites, playing games, or running other software. This solution is a bit more costly, but it offers the most protection. If you still have an old phone, you could use it for this purpose. Delete all the data, update operating systems and payment apps, and you’ve got a dedicated payment device.
Peer-to-peer payment apps are a great way to get money into the hands of someone quickly and conveniently, especially if you take a few simple safety precautions. How do you make sure your financial transactions are safe while still using your mobile phone to send and receive money? Share your tips, suggestions, and ideas on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.