Google officially launched Google Wallet this week, a free app that facilitates “wireless and wallet-less” purchases via PayPass. This new app is in line with the emerging trend of paying for products and services with cellphones or digital wallets. While these evolutionary electronic payment methods can lighten a consumer’s wallet – they can also open access to heavy identity theft dangers.
IdentityHawk, an identity theft protection service, provides P-R-O-T-E-C-T tips for identity protection while using digital wallets:
- Password protection. Smartphones often allow easy access to personal identity information – now they are starting to regularly keep account information. Password protection adds an extra layer to protect against digital identity thieves.
- Read the fine print. This is recommended before signing any agreement, but particularly new electronic payment agreements, as they are a relatively new market. Know what you are getting yourself into – what risks are involved and what protections are offered.
- Optimize credit card use. Whether you are paying with an actual credit card or you have “an app for that,” paying with a credit card will provide more identity protection than debit cards, pre-paid cards, or cash.
- Take caution. Don’t share your personal identity information (SSN, account information, passwords, etc.) unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- E-backups. Make sure you have hard copies of all your personal identity information in a safe place. Some identity protection services have e-wallet features, which is a secure place to keep personal identity information online as well.
- Check your account activity online regularly and often. Make sure all the transactions reported on were made by you. If you find any suspicious activity, immediately contact the card issuer to dispute the charge. Google Wallet doesn’t provide the details of a transaction, only the date and time. So, extra account monitoring should be performed when using this feature.
- Telephone numbers, know them. In case your digital wallet is stolen, make sure you know the number of your wireless provider so that you can call and cancel the service, report a theft, and what steps to take.
Said Jeff Paradise, executive director of IdentityHawk, “The first step you should take before using a digital wallet is going through the simple steps of PROTECT. Following these steps will help make sure that when you make your first purchases you do not open yourself up to the risk of identity theft.”
According to Nikki Junker, social media coordinator for the Identity Theft Resource Center, “Google has stated that even if a user were to download malware to a phone which would give hackers access to the phone’s entire Operating System, the chip which holds the financial information for Google Wallet transactions would remain safe. They even physically separated the hardware of the chip and the phone’s operating system. But, with hackers being as ambitious as they are these days, we have to wonder how long it will be until they figure out how to surpass these protections.”