Digital payment apps: how to use them safely and securely

Posted on by Ed Kromer. This entry was posted in Financially Fit, Life Events and Changes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

It’s a tough reality of living in a computer-driven world: scams will always find their way into popular technologies. Digital payment apps—such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo and Zelle—are no exception. With their use becoming increasingly a part of our everyday life, knowing the steps for safeguarding your information and maintaining control of your money is essential. Our partners at HomeStreet Bank provide these 10 timely tips to using digital payment apps more safely and securely.

1. Use known, trusted apps

With new payment apps popping up all the time, it can be challenging to keep track of which ones are legitimate. If a friend or business is asking you to use an app you’re not familiar with, take the time to research the service online and check reviews. If an app is trustworthy, there will be lots of information available about it on the internet.

2. Know your recipient

Commit now only to send money to people, businesses, or organizations you know and trust. It’s too common these days for scam artists to contact people via text, phone, or mail to request an app payment. There’s never any reason to respond to these types of appeals. You can always contact companies or other entities you have dealings with at a phone number you know to be correct to ask if you owe them money. Odds are you don’t.

In some cases, fraudsters are even posing as government agencies and asking for past-due funds. Remember that government agencies—including the IRS—will never ask for an app-based payment.

If you get an unexpected request for money that looks like it came from someone you know, confirm with them that they did send you the request. Don’t use any contact information included in the request to speak with them.

3. Check for errors

Some apps don’t allow you to cancel a payment once it’s sent. If you make a typo or select the wrong recipient from a list of search results, you may only get that money back if the incorrect payee does the right thing and returns your funds. It’s worth the few extra seconds to ensure you’ve got the right person.

You can also ask that the person receiving the money send you a request for the funds to avoid this kind of mishap.

4. Step up your device security

If you’ve got payment apps on your phone and your security game isn’t up to par, a criminal who steals or finds your lost phone can access the app and use it to send themselves money from your account.

It’s recommended by data security experts that you use two-factor authentication on your phone and strong, unique passwords on your accounts to prevent these types of intrusions. If you’re comfortable with it, biometric authentication—like a thumbprint or facial scanning—is ideal for safety purposes.

5. Consider credit instead

Credit cards provide fraud protection that payment apps typically don’t. If a situation presents itself in which sending money via an app feels dicey, think about using a credit card instead. A credit card payment will likely be much easier to reverse if things go sideways.

6. Review your linked accounts

As a general security measure, reviewing all your checking and credit card accounts regularly is a sound practice—ideally, at least once a month. If security breakdowns are happening because of a payment app, the evidence is going to show up in the account you have linked to the payment app. By staying vigilant, you can react quickly to any mischief.

Along the same lines, setting up transaction notifications for your payment app(s) is a good idea. With so many apps trying to send you updates and alerts, it can get more than a little tedious, but these are notifications you don’t want to forego.

7. Utilize the protection of credit cards

Speaking of your linked accounts, it makes sense to charge your digital payments to your credit card. As mentioned above, credit cards provide more recourse for fraudulent charges than debit cards. If you don’t have a credit card or don’t feel comfortable using one for these types of transactions, that’s fine. But it’s important to understand that foregoing credit could heighten your risk level.

8. Hold on to your phone

Some thieves are so brazen that they’ll ask to borrow your phone due to an “emergency” and then send themselves money using a payment app on your phone. Bottom line: don’t hand your phone over to anyone you don’t know. If they need to make an emergency call, you can dial the number and hold the phone to their ear while they talk. This may seem awkward, but it’s better than losing thousands of dollars.

9. Get the goods first

Scammers want you to do everything quickly so that you don’t stop and think about what you’re doing. If someone insists you pay them with an app before receiving your merchandise—whether online or in person—tell them you’re uncomfortable with that.

10. Share sparingly

There’s no reason to believe digital payment apps play fast and loose with your personal details more than other apps or websites. However, it’s just wise to never provide more sensitive information—like birthdate, Social Security number, etc.—to an app than you need to. There’s no point in increasing your potential exposure.

We live in a world obsessed with doing things quickly and in conjunction with multiple other tasks. If you can slow down and use caution with payment technologies, there’s no reason why these tools can’t be both efficient and safe.

This article was written and originally published by HomeStreet Bank.