5 ways to secure your credit card apps
By Jennifer Gregory
I have a bad habit of losing my smartphone. My friends often call me on my land line to tell me that my cell phone is sitting on their kitchen counter or that they picked it up at the soccer field where I left it. But after recently installing a mobile payment application that's connected to my credit card, I realized that the stakes are now much higher than just missing an important phone call.
Since I am hoping that I will have a tablet under the tree this year, giving me yet another item to worry about, I began researching ways to protect the credit card information I keep on my devices. While many credit card apps include several layers of security features, there is still a risk your information could fall into the wrong hands.
Here are five ways to keep your credit card information secure on mobile devices:
1. Enable password protection
Yes, it is a pain to enter your password every time you want to send a text. But having to cancel your credit cards because of fraud is an even bigger hassle. Even if you do not have mobile processing apps on your tablet, you may have your credit card connected to Amazon.com or another website where a thief could do significant damage. Make sure that all of your mobile devices have a secure password that includes both letters and numbers. And don't pick a common password like 1234 or any other easily guessed code.
2. Review mobile payment apps that require photo identification
Each time I use my Square Card Case app to buy a latte, the barista sees my photo on her terminal and verifies that I am the one making the purchase. While photo identification is only as effective as the person checking the identification, it does offer an added level of protection for point-of-sale purchases. Consider only using applications for credit card payments that require photo identification, and make sure that you include an up-to-date photo in your profile to prevent hassles at the counter.
3. Use GPS technology to find lost devices
One of the best ways to prevent the information on your lost phone from being compromised is to quickly recover the device. There are a number of applications that use GPS technology, such as Find My Phone, that can help you locate your phone through text or the Internet. But the catch is that you have to think ahead and install the application before you leave your phone on the restaurant table.
4. Download a data-wiping application
If you know your phone has been stolen or has been missing for more than a short time, often your best choice is to use an application that will remotely wipe data from your phone, including credit card information. Yes, it is no fun to restore all of your contact information and applications if you find your phone later, but it still beats dealing with identity theft for the next few years. Just like with the GPS technology, you will need to take this step before you find yourself without your phone. Popular applications include Wave Secure and Norton Mobile Security.
5. Consider not storing credit card information on your devices
As more merchants allow smartphone payments over the next year, it will be more tempting for people to use these conveniences instead of digging for a credit card. But if you often your lose devices like myself, you may want to consider not using mobile payment applications at all and staying with the traditional plastic method. According to a 2011 survey by Norton, 36 percent of people have lost their cell phones. Given how frequently many people use their smartphones today, that number may be even higher now.
While many smartphone apps incorporate considerable security today, there's still no replacement for careful handling of your financial information. So if you choose to store any of your credit card or bank account information on your phone, taking these common-sense steps may save you a lot of hassle down the road.