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Is Your Digital Wallet Safe?

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

A digital wallet can be a faster, easier, and more convenient payment option over swiping plastic cards. However, there’s a lot of worry about security — which is understandable. So you may be surprised to hear that it may be safer to shop with a digital wallet for many transactions. According to CNBC, more than 1 in 10 millennials use their digital wallet for every transaction.

Learn more about the security behind digital wallets, as well as how to make sure your financial information is secure.

How digital wallets work

A digital wallet is an app that stores your credit, debit, and gift card information so that you can make purchases with your mobile device. Digital wallet apps like Google Pay™ or Apple Pay® can be used on phones and smart watches. The cards uploaded to your device will still have the same reward points and capabilities as your physical cards, so don’t worry about being short-changed.

To make an in-store purchase, check for your digital wallet’s logo at the point of sale (POS) system, open your wallet app, choose a card, and then tap your device at the POS terminal. That’s it, you’re done.

How digital wallet apps protect your information

There are multiple layers of security for digital wallet transactions. Each transaction is protected by the app, retail outlet, credit card company, and the bank or credit union that issued the card.

Digital wallets use one of the more secure payment methods available: tokenization. Your information is heavily encoded — so much so that if a retailer gets hacked, your credit or debit card number won’t be compromised.

How to keep your digital wallet safe

While digital wallets are inherently safe, there are precautions you should take to make sure your information and device remain secure.

  • Lock your phone and wallet app with separate codes or methods.
  • If you use a code or swipe pattern to unlock your device, be cautious of prying eyes. Be discreet when unlocking your device.
  • Avoid using digital payment services over an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
  • Install extra security apps on your smartphone that allow you to:
    • Locate your smartphone from any computer.
    • Lock your smartphone to restrict access.
    • Wipe sensitive personal information and digital wallet credentials from your smartphone.
    • Make your smartphone emit a loud sound (“scream”) to help you or the police locate it.
  • Monitor your financial accounts for any fraudulent charges.
  • Write down the make, model, serial number, and unique device identification number of your device — either the International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) or the Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID). Some phones display the IMEI/MEID number when you dial *#06#. The IMEI/MEID can also be found on a label located beneath the phone's battery or on the box that came with the phone.

What to do if your device is lost or stolen

Losing your phone can feel like losing an integral part of your life. The good news is if you provide your carrier with the IMEI or MEID number, your carrier may be able to disable your smartphone and digital payment apps, blocking access to your personal information and sensitive data. Make sure to request written confirmation from your carrier that you reported the smartphone as missing and that the smartphone was disabled.

Report the theft to the police — including the make, model, serial number, and IMEI or MEID number in your report. Some service providers require proof that the smartphone was stolen; a police report can provide that documentation.

What to remember

All digital wallet apps aren’t created equal — they’ll have varying security measures in place to help prevent honest mistakes and dishonest fraud. It’s important to do your research before choosing an app. You can never be too careful when it comes to keeping your money safe.

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