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Mobile Payment Apps: How to Stay Safe When Paying with Your Phone

Smartphone technology has transformed our lives in ways that go beyond mere communication. At the tap of a finger, you can perform just about any function if and when you want to — including making payments.

Using mobile phones to make payments rather than using traditional modes of payment has become a norm in our digital-savvy world. Online or digital transactions are more popular, secure, and burgeoning than ever before, thanks to digital payment technology advancements. 

The unprecedented growth and adoption of contactless payment can also be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses have shifted to cashless transactions to curb losses while ensuring safety to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Dan Schulman, the CEO of PayPal puts it, digital payments are shifting from "being a nice-to-have capability to a must-have essential service." Some of the applications behind your favorite cashless payments include; Apple Pay, Square, Google Pay, Venmo, Stripe, PayPal, and more.

Now, irrespective of their popularity and commendable security features, the reality is that security risks and threats still exist when using digital payments, particularly on our mobile devices. 

Consider the following if you want to carry out safe mobile transactions:

  1. Protect your smartphone

According to Kaspersky Lab, over 50 % of people do not password-protect their mobile devices, and only 22% of consumers use anti-theft solutions on their phones. 

While leaving your phone unlocked seems convenient, locking your phone after using it can prevent unauthorized access to your accounts and information. Following these simple guidelines can ensure that your financial app and accounts remain safe;

  • Using a 4–6-digit PIN to lock your screen or set up a longer alphanumeric code 
  • Install a trusted antivirus app
  • Backing up your data
  • Promptly update mobile software 
  • Download mobile apps from trusted sources
  • Make use of location-based software to find your lost phone
  • Manage app permissions to limit privileges
  • Do not duplicate account passwords 

Don't forget to password-protect your mobile payment apps and change your passwords occasionally. 

If your smartphone is stolen, having a lock/passcode makes it harder for others to unlock it. Fingerprints or even facial recognition provide more security than passcodes. Lastly, locate and remotely lock or erase data if you lose your phone. 

  1. Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) offers another reliable solution to securely accessing your payment apps. Even if malicious individuals get the passwords to your bank, email, or other accounts, 2FA adds an extra layer of security since it requires that you prove your identity on top of a username and password to gain access.

  1. Log out after use

Every time you're done banking on your mobile device, ensure you log out of an app. If you don't log out and your phone has no or weak security, anyone swiftly and efficiently access your financial accounts. 

  1. Never log into your financial institution's mobile website via public Wi-Fi networks

Public Wi-Fi lacks heightened levels of security and can be used to monitor and steal your sensitive data. Only visit websites with HTTPS encryption (s stands for secure) when in public places instead of HTTP addresses that can reveal sensitive data when used. Monitor your Bluetooth connection when in public places to stop unknown connections that may be trying to intercept and steal your data.

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi connectivity on your phone, so it doesn't automatically seek and connect to hotspots. Instead, use your phone's data network or which is much safer. 

Better yet, use a VPN to create a protected network and keep your activities encrypted.

  1. Don't save login credentials in your browser 

While most browsers give you the option to save your username and password, avoid doing so. Storing passwords on your browser makes your accounts vulnerable to cybercriminals or people who might want to snoop around on your phone. Hackers can easily access your online payment accounts if you stored your passwords in the browser 

  1. Regularly monitor your accounts balances 

Always check your transactions and balances as often as possible. Closely watching your account proactively helps identify any suspicious or fraudulent activity before the theft escalates.

  1. Beware of scammers 

If they're not trying to steal your smartphone or trying to hit you with malware, cybercriminals use old or invent new tricks to gain access to your accounts. Whether it's phishing attacks, spam messages, and scams such as impersonation, unexpected prize-winning, and various kinds of fraud, they'll devise a scheme to try and empty your pockets digitally. 

Don't give out personal information to strangers. Verify that you speak with your financial institution or app provider representative by directly calling verified customer support. Ask whether the company sent a request. Finally, don't click on unfamiliar attachments on links in your email or messages.

 Wrapping up 

As mobile app payments continue to grow, so does mobile fraud. The key takeaway is that your data stored on your smartphone is more important than the smartphone itself. 

While it's not possible to eliminate the security risk that comes with mobile app payments, you can mitigate the outcome's likelihood and severity. Taking these and more steps makes it much harder for cybercriminals to steal your personal information as well as your hard-earned money.

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