Google Pay is a digital wallet app developed by Google. It is used to make in-app purchases, send payments to other Google Pay users, and pay for purchases in shops and restaurants.
Payment apps are increasingly popular because they provide a convenient alternative to cash and credit cards. Unfortunately, they also provide another way for malicious actors to potentially access your cash.
So how safe is Google Pay and does it protect you against fraud?
How Does Google Pay Work?
In order to use Google Pay, you need to provide a debit or credit card. It’s not possible to use the service without doing so. You can add as many cards as you want. Each card then becomes a possible payment method when you want to send money or pay for something.
The service also has a balance feature. This means that when you receive money, you can choose to either store it in the app as balance or withdraw it to your associated bank account.
Google Pay is increasingly popular for contactless payments in shops and restaurants. It uses Near Field Communication (NFC) and allows you to pay without revealing your card number.
8 Things You Should Know About Google Pay
Google Pay scores highly in terms of security, but it doesn’t offer buyer protection. If you’re thinking of trying the service, here’s what you should know about its security and privacy features.
1. Google Pay Hides Your Payment Details
Google Pay is potentially more secure than using a debit or credit card. Payments made with the app are achieved using tokens which are called “virtual card numbers”.
Your actual card number is hidden throughout the transaction and this protects you from both fraudulent merchants and security breaches.
A security breach can happen at any retailer; any app that allows you to hide your payment details is therefore worth using.
2. Google Pay Doesn’t Broadcast Your Transactions
Google Pay uses NFC for in-person payments. This is considered more secure than Wi-Fi because data is only broadcast up to 4cm.
This means that if anybody wanted to somehow interfere with the signal, you would see them doing it.
3. Google Pay Is Protected by Your Phone
In order to use the Google Pay app, you first have to unlock your phone. Depending on your security settings, this may require either a PIN or biometrics like Face ID.
This is in contrast to your card which can be used by anyone who holds it long enough to read the card number. You decide how your phone is unlocked, but Google Pay cannot be installed on a phone without a lock screen. A PIN also has to be entered individually for large transactions.
4. Google Pay Alerts You About Suspicious Payments
Payment apps are increasingly popular and anything popular is targeted by cybercriminals. Many online scams now specifically mention Google Pay.
Google Pay uses machine learning to identify potential fraud. It also displays an alert whenever you send payment to somebody who is not in your contact list.
5. Google Pay Can Be Deleted Remotely
If your phone is stolen and the thief somehow manages to unlock it, it’s still possible for you to protect your payment information.
Google Pay is connected to your Google account and is therefore accessible using the Find My Device feature. This allows you to delete all data stored in the app remotely.
6. Google Pay Does Not Offer Buyer Protection
Google Pay does not offer buyer protection. If you use Google Pay to buy something and you don’t receive it, Google won’t investigate or refund your money.
Provided a Google Pay transaction involves a bank card, you may still be covered by your bank’s fraud protection. But the app itself does not provide any assistance.
7. Google Pay Allows You to Opt Out of Data Sharing
Some people avoid Google products due to privacy concerns, but Google Pay actually offers high levels of privacy compared to the alternatives.
Privacy settings are controlled by logging into your Google account. Here it is possible to opt out of having your transaction history shared with advertisers. This is in comparison to Zelle and Venmo which sell this information on all accounts.
8. Google Pay May Make Transit Too Easy
If you use Google Pay to pay for transit tickets, it’s possible that the app could be used against you. A security researcher at Black Hat 2021 demonstrated that a lost or stolen phone can be used to purchase transit tickets by anyone.
Google Pay requires you to unlock your phone before you make most purchases. But it’s possible to set the app to purchase a transit ticket automatically by swiping your phone at a Point of Sale device. This allows a thief to use the app without knowing your PIN.
It’s worth noting that this problem was only identified as a possibility by security researchers. It’s not something that anyone has been caught doing.
How to Use Google Pay Safely
Google Pay is a secure app, but it’s important to use it with security in mind.
When you install Google Pay, or any other payment app, you are essentially allowing your phone to access your bank account. This makes it even more important to optimize your phone’s security settings.
Google Pay provides alerts after all transactions. It’s important to check each transaction and report anything that appears suspicious.
Google Pay should not be used to send money to strangers. Your bank may offer fraud protection that protects some transactions but the app itself will not help you if you are a victim of a scam.
Should You Use Google Pay?
Google Pay is a secure app that has useful security features. It’s arguably safer than using a credit or debit card for shopping because it keeps your information private. It also warns you when you send payments to strangers.
Like most payment apps, however, it does not offer buyer protection. Because of this, it’s important to be careful when deciding what purposes you use it for.