FBI Portland
Portland Media Office
(503) 460-8060
September 29, 2020

Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense While Using Mobile Wallets

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense when using mobile wallets.

Mobile wallets can make your life easier, whether you are at a store, restaurant, or even just trying to pay for parking. You simply load your credit or debit card number or bank account info into the digital wallet on your phone, smartwatch, or tablet. If you see a reader device that is compatible with your mobile wallet app—you just tap or wave the device and the transaction goes through. In that scenario, you are using Near Field Communication technology.

In some cases, a business has its own specific app. Think about your favorite coffee shop—you download that shop’s app on your phone, load your card or bank information, and the barista just scans a QR code or bar code in the app when you are ready to pay.

Not only are mobile wallets easy, but they can also be more secure because the information is encrypted. There are some safety concerns, though. First, if someone steals your phone or device, the thief could potentially gain access to your financial information. Also, if you don’t practice good cyber safety, someone could remotely gain access to your device and, through that, to your bank account.

Here are some ways to protect yourself:

  • Use all available PIN, password, and biometric protection options to secure your device and the app.
  • Turn on notifications and regularly monitor transaction history on your card or account for unauthorized payments.
  • Only transfer money to people or merchants you know and trust, and establish a maximum transaction limit to monitor large purchases and transfers.
  • Do not link your mobile wallet application to any social networking platform.
  • Before signing up, always research to see if a mobile wallet service provider has a good or bad track record when it comes to handling users’ privacy and data.
  • Never use mobile payment services over an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
  • Finally, if you do lose your device, use the security software on your smartphone to remotely lock the device, wipe sensitive personal information, and/or activate the alarm.

If you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to file a report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.