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How to Keep Crooks Out of Your ‘Mobile Wallet’

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Using your phone to pay for things simply by tapping it or swiping it at a store’s checkout terminal may sound like a convenience of the future, but it’s already here.

Thanks to a wireless technology called near field communications (NFC), mobile users in Japan, the U.K. and a few other countries are already using their phones at restaurants, stores, and even to pay highway tolls. And, the idea of a mobile wallet is spreading to other countries. In fact, Gartner predicts that the value of mobile transactions will grow to $245 billion globally by 2014.

NFC works via a chip that allows for a simple data exchange between two devices that are within close proximity to each other, usually within just a few centimeters. It is considered to be safer for exchanging information than technologies like Bluetooth because of its short range. Also, instead of transmitting your personal information it simply exchanges credentials to prove your identity.

Using NFC, your mobile phone acts like a wallet, allowing you to pay for products and services, redeem coupons, and even collect customer rewards. Unlike mobile banking, which gives you the ability to check your accounts and make some online transfers and payments, NFC turns your phone into a smart debit or credit card.

The technology can also be used to exchange data between two mobile devices, potentially allowing you to transfer money to someone else.

All of the major credit card companies and many major banks have announced plans for mobile payment systems. Additionally, PayPal will be rolling out their mobile payment system very soon.

But, with the popularity of mobile payments growing we also have to consider the risks. For instance, it’s possible for attackers to use technologies that allow them to “eavesdrop” on your payments or steal and transmit your credentials by extending the range of the wireless signal. Your data may also be manipulated or corrupted by an attacker.

So, if you decide to take advantage of this technology just be aware of the risks and take the following steps to protect your money and ensure mobile security:

  • Check your financial statements online at least once a week to make sure there aren’t any anomalies.
  • When downloading mobile applications, only do so from a reputable app store, and verify that the app is legitimate and safe by checking other users’ reviews.
  • Make sure that your mobile phone is password-protected in the case of loss or theft and set it to auto-lock after a certain period of time.
  • Consider using a product such as McAfee® Mobile Security, which provides mobile antivirus and safe search protection, as well as giving you the ability to locate your phone in the case of loss, remotely lock and wipe the information you have stored on it, and restore your data.

NFC may be a relatively new technology, but you can increase your mobile security by taking a few tried and true precautions.


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