Protecting your wallet in the digital age

Protecting your wallet
October 21, 2015

Protecting your wallet means you’ll need to consider both its physical and digital security.

Security Evangelist

In days gone by, keeping your wallet safe while out and about just meant making sure it was still in your pocket. But with a variety of new payment technologies such as contactless payment or Chip and PIN being developed and rolled out, and hackers becoming increasingly creative about how they access and use your information, times are changing fast.

While we all want speedier, more convenient payment options, have you stopped to consider the level of personal information you now carry around about yourself, and whether you are still doing such a good job of keeping your wallet safe in today’s digital age?

As National Cyber Security Awareness month continues, I’ve jotted down a few of my top tips:

When is a wallet, not a wallet?

There has been much talk of the ‘digital wallet’ in recent years, but with NFC payments now enabled through schemes such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, your smartphone could now be considered a wallet on its own. As such, you’ll need to consider both its physical and cyber security. This means taking steps such as considering where you’re carrying and using your phone, making sure you have software to protect it from malware, and ensuring you only use it at trusted locations for sensitive transactions such as money transfers.

Does you wallet speak for itself?

With contactless payment systems becoming more popular, especially in Europe, even cards in your wallet could speak without you knowing. If you card has the ‘contactless’ Wi-Fi type symbol on it then it most likely has RFID technology that allows details to be read from the card without the need to swipe or insert into a chip and pin reader. This also means that if a cybercriminal can get close enough to your card then they might be able to read some of the data from it. Wallet manufacturers are now producing wallets that add pockets of protection for you to store cards of this type. I recently purchased one and now it stores both my driver’s licence and contactless cards in the protected zone.

Putting a PIN in your security

With the increase in payment technologies such as Chip and PIN and contactless, the contents of your traditional wallets are also more vulnerable than ever before. So what steps should you take here?

Just as you wouldn’t leave your house keys in your front door, your card or phone’s PIN number should never be written down and certainly not left with the card or phone itself. If you have trouble remembering the PIN provided by your bank, you should change it to a number that’s easier for you to remember – but not so easy that others could guess it. When entering your PIN, you should also hide it from anyone who might be looking!

While not yet mainstream in the U.S., ‘touch and go’ NFC payment from a phone or ‘contactless’ RFID from a credit card is already common in Europe. Making a payment in seconds is appealing to many of us, but this convenience comes with a number of other security considerations. In the UK, there is currently a cap of $45 (£30) on such purchases – minimising the risk of significant purchases being made on a stolen card or phone. For anyone still feeling nervous, it is possible to ‘opt out’ and request a simple Chip and PIN card.

Beyond these more ‘high-tech’ tips, there are other points of best practice that should always be observed in protecting your financial security.

Check what you’re paying for

As cashless payment becomes the norm, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re spending, and even if you’re the one spending it! Always make sure to check your bank statement, even if online, for any ‘rogue’ payments. Many of us have the attitude that ‘it won’t happen to me’, but fraudsters will often start with small amounts that may go unnoticed to those who aren’t vigilant.

Bin those receipts

Is your wallet bulging with six months’ worth of receipts? If so, de-clutter! Receipts can carry a whole host of valuable information including your credit card details or signature. Keep any important receipts for returns, warranties or business expenses, at home and make sure to shred the rest. Expired cards should also be cleared out of your wallet. While you can’t use them anymore, your information could still be of use to a potential fraudster.

Having taken my wallet with me on various travels abroad recently, I know I’ve kept these tips in mind, and fingers crossed, remained fraud free! Hopefully they will help you do the same!

Tony Anscombe
October 21, 2015