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Mobile Apps and Identity Theft: Consumer Group Urges Caution

Mobile payments using smartphones can be convenient, but consumer advocates warn people to protect against too much information being collected during transactions to avoid identity theft. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Mobile payments using smartphones can be convenient, but consumer advocates warn people to protect against too much information being collected during transactions to avoid identity theft. (Greg Stotelmyer)
March 21, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Mobile payments for goods and services are becoming increasingly common, but consumer advocates warn that you need to take steps to protect your security and privacy.

Experts say the personal information from such transactions can give a savvy thief all they need to hack your bank account.

Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America, says it's important to know just what information is collected when making a payment with a smartphone or other device.

"In many cases, you may be able to control the personal information that is gathered and shared, and used for purposes other than actually completing the payment," says Grant. "For instance, when you are downloading a mobile-payment app, you want to read the privacy policy."

Grant says smartphones, tablets and other devices contain lots of sensitive information. From mobile payments, she says thieves can find out account numbers and passwords, as well as your location and where you do business, what you spend, and what you buy.

She recommends you closely examine each app you download to make mobile payments and monitor the information it passes on. Grant also says it's important to take steps ahead of time to protect your personal information in case you lose your device.

"Lost and stolen mobile devices are a big problem," says Grant. "You want to have a feature where you can track your device and where you can lock it remotely, or even wipe the contents in extreme situations, in order to protect yourself."

Grant says when there is a problem with a mobile transaction, consumer rights can vary widely depending on whether the purchase is made with a credit card, debit card or bank account.

She says there is currently no federal law on payment dispute rights for purchases made with mobile devices.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY