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Security & privacy

Data breaches make debit and credit cards dangerous forms of payment

If you use debit or credit cards to pay for things, you should know by now there are security risks associated with them.

Just think about the constant barrage of data breaches we’re telling you about. Here’s a perfect example: Last week we told you about a breach where hackers stole payment information from over 2 million people who ate at a few popular chain restaurants across the country.

Some data breaches can lead to not only having your bank account drained, but also having your identity stolen. That’s why it’s time to find more secure ways to pay for things.

More secure ways to pay

Whenever a payment system breach occurs at an establishment that you patronize, you should be vigilant and take steps to protect yourself. The first thing to do is review your account statements and look for suspicious activity. If you find any, report it immediately to your bank.

Wouldn’t it be nice to cut down on the chance of being part of data breaches altogether and not have to worry about being victimized again? While that might not be totally realistic, there are more secure ways to pay for stuff that would protect you.

Obviously, the safest way to pay would be with cash. That’s how we bypass an establishment’s point-of-sale (POS) system, which is where the breach typically occurs. Crooks infect a POS with malware that lets them steal information from payment cards that are used.

Cash is the logical solution. But, let’s be honest, that’s probably not going to happen. We’ve all gotten out of the habit of carrying cash and we’re probably not going to start again.

The trend of a cashless society is growing. U.S. Bank conducted a survey recently and found people are carrying less cash than they used to. Around 50% of respondents said when they go out, they have cash with them less than half the time.

When they do have cash, it’s not much. Most people said they carry less than $50 if they happen to have any on them at all.

So, what other alternatives do we have?

Here are four legitimate options:

  1. Mobile wallets – Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are becoming super popular and more businesses have started accepting them. (PssT! In the next section of this article, we’ll tell you more about what they are and how to use them.)
  2. Cards with microchips – EMV chips are intended to make it a lot tougher for criminals to steal your information, and to exploit retailers’ payment systems. Tap or click here find learn why it’s more secure.
  3. Prepaid (reloadable) credit cards – These are more secure than debit cards because they’re not linked to your bank account.
  4. P2P apps – More and more people are using apps like Venmo and Zelle to send each other money, especially millennials. Click or tap here to learn more about P2P apps and how to use them.

What are mobile wallets?

Mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, allow for card-free payments at supporting merchants. Normally, you will see a sign at a register telling you which systems are supported. It isn’t available everywhere, but a lot of major retailers support these new systems and more are adding them all the time.

Start by downloading an app (or the app may already be pre-loaded on your phone) and then registering credit or debit cards with that app.

Then tap your phone on or hold it close to a card-free reader at a compatible checkout terminal and zip right on through the payment process.

As you might suspect based on the names, Google Pay is made for Android gadgets, Apple Pay works with iPhones and iPads, and Samsung Pay is geared for high-end Samsung devices like the Galaxy line. All three services work in the U.S. as well as at quite a few international destinations.

The wireless magic happens thanks to a technology called near-field communications (NFC). The Pay systems are compatible with merchant terminals that support NFC. They can also be used for in-app purchases.

For a more detailed description of mobile wallets, and to find out which pay system is right for you, tap or click here.

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