MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When it comes to shopping, the difference between someone getting access to personal information, or not, often comes down to the method of payment.

Experts at the Minnetonka-based cybersecurity firm FRSecure said customers concerned about thieves stealing information or money are best using mobile payment apps rather than credit or debit cards.

FRSecure CEO Evan Francen says of all the ways to pay, the magnetic strip on the back of plastic cards is the most vulnerable to hackers. That’s why card companies rolled out chip cards, and is part of the reason why fraud is still prevalent.

Most, if not all, credit and debit cards have the EMV chip, and some even let users tap the physical card on the reader. Francen says the difference between each is marginal—tapping is more convenient.

When it comes to cybersecurity, both have an added level of encryption, making them more secure than the magnetic strip, but one step behind mobile payments.

Mobile wallets such as Apple, Samsung, or Google Pay require users to set up a passcode. If someone finds a phone on the street, they will likely be unsuccessful in using the cards in its mobile wallet.

“The credit card information isn’t actually stored on your phone,” said Francen. “It’s a token that’s stored on your phone, so even if somebody stole my phone, they wouldn’t be able to get my payment card information, and they probably wouldn’t be able to buy anything.”

Other mobile transfer companies such as Zelle, Venmo, and a certain feature within Google Pay, allow people to send and receive money from other people. They too, are generally considered safe from hacks and breaches, however Francen points out a different scenario that could compromise information.

“The biggest risk there is somebody getting your password,” said Francen. “Those are susceptible to phishing attacks.”

He suggests two things: First, set a good password and change it periodically. Second, call the bank and ask if it reimburses stolen funds in the event that someone gets into the account. That typically varies from bank to bank.

Christiane Cordero

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