How secure are peer-to-peer payment apps?

Consumer Reports rates privacy, security of 5 popular P2P payment systems

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - It's easier than ever to split a bill or pay the sitter with the tap of an app.  

It's all done through peer-to-peer, or P2P, payment systems, which are growing in popularity.

But with consumers worried about data breaches and hacks, can P2P services be trusted?

Consumer Reports rated five P2P services -- Venmo, Zelle, Square Cash, Facebook and Apple Pay --  focusing on privacy and security. 

"We didn't find any of the services were so bad you shouldn't use them," said Consumer Reports money editor Tobie Stanger.

But they did find differences between the services.  

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," Stanger said. 

But the app is only available if the sender and the receiver both use an Apple smartphone, watch or tablet, and it requires specific later-generation Apple hardware and software.

With P2P in general, the sender and recipient have to use the same service to exchange funds.  

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, Consumer Reports recommends you opt for the highest app privacy and security settings possible and add measures such as a PIN or fingerprint authentication. 

Also, as fun as the feed may be, with Venmo, Consumer Reports advises that you set it to keep your transactions private. 

And, to be secure, don't use P2P to send money to strangers. 

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