How to keep your smartphone payment apps safe and secure if your phone is stolen

Jason Knowles Image
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
How to keep your smartphone payment apps safe and secure if your phone is stolen
Many people use apps like Venmo, Cash App, PayPal and Zelle to pay bills or send money. Here's how to keep your money safe from thieves.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Payment app security is top of mind for many consumers who may feel they are not protected if they are victims of fraud.

Apps to help quickly send money and pay bills are only growing more popular, but users run the risk of someone "shoulder surfing" or somehow getting your smartphone password and stealing your phone.

Andrew Hoog from Chicago-based Now Secure knows consumers are worried.

"I think one of the biggest concerns is that somebody gets access to your app or to your phone and ends up transferring large sums of money out of your account very, very quickly," he said.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is asking financial apps to give consumers increased protection, like imposing limits on transactions and secondary verification, especially for unusual transactions

All of the banking apps said safety and security is top priority.

Zelle said less than one tenth of transactions are reported as fraud, and that its participating banks "are required to reimburse consumers for confirmed fraud claims."

Apps point out that you can also enable security tools like Face ID and multi-factor authentication.

Cash App said it also uses that multi-factor authentication and has "account transaction limits, fraud detection, and consumer education" to stop fraud.

The company which owns Paypal and Venmo said it uses fraud detection tools and has "several options in place to enable enhanced layers of security and protection directly within our apps."

"Always make sure that you have a good strong password on your phone, and ideally, you should be using biometrics," Hoog said. "So, Face ID, Touch ID, things of that sort. Also, a lot of the applications will let you use Face ID as well. So if an attacker is looking over your shoulder and looking at your pass code, they won't be able to authenticate using your face."

If you are using passcodes for banking apps, make sure they are strong and unique.

You can also now turn on more theft safeguards in your iPhone if you have iOS 17.3 installed. To do so, go to Settings, then "Face ID and Passcode" or "Touch ID and Passcode," then turn on "Stolen Device Protection."

"And so if somebody steals your device and you're not in a familiar place, Apple will no longer allow you to just use the passcode to make these changes. It's going to require you to do a Face ID scan," Hoog said.

If you have a payment app you are not using, experts say you should delete it. If you are a victim of fraud, you should always contact local authorities and banks to file a claim and try to get your money back.

Also remember, even if you are not a victim of phone theft, make sure you are not sending money to the wrong person or scammer. It could be even harder to get your money back.