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Are mobile apps a secure way to pay?

Monday, March 26, 2012

They're new, they're fast, and they're easy. We're talking about mobile phone apps that let you pay for just about anything with one quick swipe of your phone. But are these apps as safe as they are convenient?

This is a growing high-tech way to pay, we've learned the feds are about to take a close look at it. If you're not careful, these payments apps could actually cost you more then you bargained for.

Busy accountant Tom Osler barely has time to eat lunch during tax season. To save time checking out, he pays his tab in seconds with a mobile payment app.

"Just wave the bar code device and the transaction happens instantly," he said.

There's no signing a credit card charge slip, no getting asked for identification, and while that's quick and convenient it has some experts worried.

Security expert Hemanshu Nigam explained, "None of that is required so that's a huge security risk."

,P> The FTC wants to weigh the pros and cons of mobile app technology to consumers, including what happens if someone steals your phone.

FTC spokesperson Patricia Poss asked, "How does the retailer know that is in fact the right consumer who has that phone?"

Some apps allow you to set a password to unlock your account. Experts say that's a good idea and you're better off linking a mobile payment app to a credit card rather than a debit card, because it's easier to dispute purchases.

Nigam said, "When that bank account debit is done, it's an immediate removal of money from your bank. It's gone."

The FTC says before you download a mobile payment app be sure to find out:

  • Who can you call if something goes wrong?
  • Can you dispute purchases with the mobile payment provider?
  • How can you get your money back?
  • Does the company provide protection for fraudulent transactions?
  • Another concern -- who's tracking your buying habits?

    Poss said, "One of the things we want to look at is what information is collected from consumers, how is it transferred and who actually gets access to it?"

    Tom does get what he considers spam promotional emails from his payment provider, but he loves the loyalty rewards that come with using the app. The day he signed up he even got his lunch for half price. And he keeps his phone password protected.

    He said, "I feel secure that my device is locked."

    If you hae a mobile payment app installed on your phone and it gets stolen, security experts say it's imperative that you contact your credit card company or your bank right away so you don't get billed for those charges.

    (Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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