How secure is your mobile payment app?

More people using smartphones to pay for goods, services

By Consumer Reports, Erin Fisher
Hannah Peters/Getty Images for Telecom

Millions of Americans are paying each other without actual paper cash ever changing hands. It's all done through peer to peer payment services, like Venmo, Zelle, and Square Cash.

From millennials to baby boomers, an estimated 79 million Americans will use a mobile peer to peer payment service this year. But with consumers worried about data breaches and hacks, can P2P services be trusted? Do they protect your privacy?

Consumer Reports rated 5 of them, focusing on privacy and security. 

CR didn't find any of the services were so bad you shouldn't use them. Although there are differences consumers should know about.

Apple Pay, for instance, was the only one to score top marks for data privacy. They try to take the least amount of data and keep the least amount of data to keep your privacy protected.

However, it's only available if both the sender and the receiver use an Apple smart phone, watch, or tablet -- and a newer version at that.

In fact, that's one thing to note with P2P in general. You have to use the same service to exchange funds. So the sender and receiver both have to have Zelle or Venmo for those services to work.

Depending on which service you use, accounts are linked to your bank account, credit or debit card, prepaid card, or PayPal account. So if  you do sign up for a P2P service, CR recommends you opt for the highest app privacy and security settings possible, adding, for instance, a PIN or fingerprint authentication.

Also, as fun as the feed may be, with Venmo you really set it to keep your transactions private.

Most important, don't use P2P to send money to strangers. You should really only pay people that you know.

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