By Lynn Viesti Berube
One of the unique features about today’s app-centric society is there’s an app or just about everything, it seems. It’s great to be able to download apps and take care of so many things on your mobile devices. On the other hand, because these apps tend to be fairly targeted – most try to solve a single problem – they don’t always offer quite the level of flexibility or functionality users might want.
Take mobile payment apps, for instance, like Zelle or Venmo, which are becoming increasingly popular. They are designed to make exchanging funds between individuals easier using digital technology. But, they are not necessarily intended for all transactions. Both companies have been clear that their intended use is for payments between friends or other people who know and trust one another. For things like paying a share of a dinner bill, sending an entry fee for a fantasy sports league, or getting in on a group birthday gift, apps like these make transactions fast and simple. These are cases where one individual outlays funds for an activity, and others need to pay their share.
But, as with any digital transactions, there are risks that users should be aware of. Here are a few simple tips to keep your apps, accounts, and money safe while letting you enjoy the convenience of P2P payment apps.
Intended uses – Use the apps as they are intended. If an online retailer asks you to pay using a p2P app, you should be suspicious. Reputable online retailers should offer payment methods that don’t require immediate P2P transfers, such as credit cards, PayPal, and other means. If you’re paying for services, such as a snowplow service in the winter, using a P2P app, you may be using local residents not set up to receive credit card payments, and sending a check each time it snows can be a nuisance, so a P2P app might be the best option. At the very least, make sure you know who you’re paying, use only reputable providers, and make sure you’ve received the service before paying. Consider sending a check the first few times to make sure the relationship works out.
Identity – It’s easy to make a mistake when typing an email, phone, number or username. Double check whatever identifier you’re using to send money to someone. Once the money has been sent, it’s hard – often impossible – to get it back, so taking the extra time to get it right can reduce potential headaches.
Send a test – If you’re not certain you are sending to the right person, send a small amount as a test and confirm they received it before sending the full amount.
Security – Follow the same security principles as you would for any other application or website. Use the highest level of security they offer, including using a PIN or fingerprint ID for transactions. If the application offers two-factor authentication, be sure to use it. While this adds an additional step when using the app, it also adds an additional layer of protection that help keep you account secure, even if your credentials are compromised.
Deposits – Some apps place funds you’ve received into a mobile wallet until you manually transfer them into your bank account. This can sometimes take several days to process, so once you have approved the transfer, check to verify that it actually went through.
Fees – Some P2P payment platforms charge fees for certain kinds of transactions. Make sure you know what your app’s policies and fees are so you won’t be surprised and can account for fees when sending or receiving money.
Settings – Always check your app’s privacy and sharing settings. They may have default settings that make information available to others that want kept private.
Kids – Many parents want to give their children access to P2P payment apps to make it easier for them to participate in various activities. You probably don’t want to give them full access to your credit card or bank accounts, so take the trip to your local bank to see what options they might be able to offer, such as a prepaid debit card to link to your child’s app. If they are part of one of the payment platform networks, they likely are well versed on the best ways to let your kids use them. Of course, before anything, make sure your child’s device has security protocols enabled, and talk to them about potential security risks and how to avoid them.