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Pay-By-Phone Apps Are Convenient, But Are They Safe?

Smart phone (CBS)

Smart phone (CBS)

Roseanne Tellez Roseanne Tellez
Roseanne Tellez is the co-anchor of CBS 2 Chicago′s midday News at...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — They’re new. They’re hip. They’re fast.

We’re talking about phone apps that let you pay for coffee, food and even merchandise by waving your phone at the checkout register.  But as CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, these apps could cost you more than you bargained for.

Busy accountant Tom Osler barely has time to eat lunch during tax season. To save time, he pays his tab in seconds with a mobile payment app.

There’s no signing a credit card charge slip, no getting asked for identification. While that’s quick and convenient, it has some experts worried.

“That’s a huge security risk,” expert Hemanshu Nigam says.

The FTC wants to weigh the pros and cons of mobile app technology to consumers, including what happens if someone steals your phone.

“How does the retailer know that that is in fact the right consumer who has that phone,” the commission’s Patricia Poss says.

Some apps allow you to use a password to unlock your account.  Experts say that’s a good idea.  They also say you’re better off linking a mobile payment app to a credit card rather than to a debit card because it’s harder to dispute purchases with a debit card.

“When that bank account debit is done, it’s an immediate removal of money from your bank — it’s gone,” Nigam says.

The FTC says before you download a mobile payment app, be sure to find out,

Who can you call if something goes wrong? Can you dispute purchases with the mobile payment provider? How can you get your money back? Does the company provide protection for fraudulent transactions?

Another concern: Who is tracking your buying habits?

“One of the things we want to look at is what information is collected from

Consumers; how is it transferred and who actually gets access?” Poss says.

Osler, the accountant, gets “spam” promotional emails from his payment provider, but he loves the loyalty rewards that come with using the app. The day he signed up, he even got his lunch for half price.

But, he is careful to keep his phone password-protected.

“I feel secure that my device is locked,” Osler says.

Security experts say if you have a mobile payment app installed on your phone and it gets stolen, be sure to alert your credit card company, bank and phone company as soon as possible to help avoid being billed for transactions you did not make.