Protect against ID theft when making mobile payments

What are mobile payments?

Mobile payments are ways of transferring funds without the need for physical cash, using devices like smartphones and tablets. Some mobile payment services are free, but some include charges for transactions that you make.

Types of mobile payments

Types of mobile payments vary. They can include the following:

  • Mobile wallets
    These save your payment details on a mobile device, typically on apps. Open loop mobile payment systems allow you to pay at different locations from a specific digital ‘wallet’, while closed loop systems are specific to a company, for example, when you purchase a coffee in-store from a cafe using the company’s app.
  • SMS payments
    These involve paying for goods or services by text message on your mobile phone.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) payments
    NFC technology allows devices that are in close proximity to communicate. For example, a contactless debit card could connect with a card reader, allowing you to transfer payment.
  • Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) payments
    The WAP facility accesses online payment systems that you’ve already set up, like PayPal or Google Wallet, to allow you to make a payment online.

Protect your personal and financial information

Although mobile payments may be convenient, like anything else, they don’t come without risks. Hackers may target security flaws in systems or fraudsters could try to steal your information. It’s important, therefore, to take precautions when setting up and using this type of payment system. Some things you can do include:

  • Making sure that the platform you use is safe, trustworthy and authentic
    Be wary with third party mobile payment apps, as they could potentially have been set up by fraudsters to steal your personal and financial information. Mobile software that comes with smartphones, like Apple Pay or Android Pay, are generally more trustworthy.
  • Downloading app updates
    Make sure that you’ve got the latest version of each of your payment apps. Developers should constantly be updating their apps to fix bugs and protect against the latest digital threats, so it’s important that you keep up to date.
  • Making sure that websites you use are secure
    This can include making sure that the URL starts with ‘https’ rather than ‘http’. This means that the data is exchanged only between the device and the server, and isn’t open for easy access by fraudsters.
  • Ensuring that you use strong passwords
    Create secure passwords to minimise the risk of anyone being able to crack them and use your login details to access your information. Ensure that your phone can only be unlocked by you.
  • Locking your phone online if it’s lost or stolen
    You can locate and lock a lost or stolen phone so that anyone who’s got it isn’t able to access your mobile payment details (or any other personal data that you’ve got stored on it).
  • Not using public Wi-Fi to make payments
    It’s easier for hackers to access public Wi-Fi compared to data networks or your own password-protected Wi-Fi. If you’re out, try switching on your 3G or 4G connection instead if you’re making a payment online.
  • Monitoring bank statements and credit reports
    Keep an eye on your bank statements. If any unauthorised transactions crop up, take action immediately. Similarly, you can monitor your credit report to ensure that no credit agreements have been taken out in your name without your knowledge. Your Equifax Credit Report and Score – free for the first 30 days then £14.95 monthly – gives you unlimited online access to your credit report. It also includes WebDetect, which sends you alerts if your information is found on websites that fraudsters frequent to trade stolen data.

Mobile payments can be useful and convenient. However, it pays to make sure that you take the appropriate steps to stay safe online, in order to reduce the risks of becoming a victim of identity theft.

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