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Are you in Good Hands?
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Once upon a time, cash was king. These days, however, more and more of us are shunning the green stuff. Apps from PayPal, Google, Apple, Venmo and nearly every card issuer are vying to become your favorite new payment method.

But many people worry about the safety of transferring funds with the touch of a finger. Just as our physical cash and credit cards are vulnerable to theft, mobile payment methods can also be hijacked. The good news? These five steps can help you protect your cash from the clutches of cyber thieves.

1. Layer Up on Security Look for ways to add layers of security on your smartphone. Make the PIN for your financial apps different from the code that unlocks your phone, and use any extra security measures the apps offer. Consider installing trusted mobile security software that scans payments, or banking apps to ensure that your sensitive information is safe.

Tip
Some apps let you set up text or email alerts so that you’ll know if a transaction exceeds a designated dollar amount or comes from an unlikely location, such as an out-of-state grocery store.

2. Perfect Your Passwords We all know what we’re supposed to do: Change all of our passwords every 90 days, using new 12-character combinations each time, a different one for every website and app. But we all end up writing our passwords down somewhere.

A more realistic approach? Concentrate your efforts on creating strong passwords for accounts that demand higher-level security, such as banking and payment applications.

3. Beware the Perils of Debit Cards The Fair Credit Protection Act, which limits a cardholder’s responsibility to only $50 of fraudulent activity on a credit card, does not apply to debit cards. So it’s a good idea to always link your credit card, rather than a debit card or bank account. That way, if your information is stolen, you will be more protected.

4. Prepare for Post-Theft Protection Most devices and some mobile payment applications allow for remote wiping — that’s erasing information on your device from afar, in case of loss or theft. But you may need to set up that capability in advance. Many Apple products, for example, let you set up Find My iPhone, iPad and Mac ahead of time. If you have an Android, you have to associate your phone or tablet with your Google account.

5. WiFi with Caution — or Better Yet, Not at All Free WiFi sure sounds awesome, but even the public networks of well-respected companies might not be secure. The best browser encryption may not stop a nearby hacker from infiltrating your device with a virus that captures every character you type. If you need to run a financial transaction, don’t do it over WiFi.

Tip
Avoid rogue websites and WiFi networks, which try to attract you by closely mirroring familiar names. For example, at a big-box store that’s offering free WiFi, the rogue network may misspell the name of the store or be off by one letter.