(WMC) - There are new smart phone apps available that are designed to protect your debit cards.
The apps prevent unwanted charges by letting users turn off their cards with a simple touch of the screen. But is a "remote control" for your cards a true safeguard to keeping your information protected?
Scott Kilmer thinks so. When a flier from his bank arrived in his mailbox that advertised a new app that would "lock" his debit card with a quick tap and swipe, he signed up.
"That was really the feature that stood out to me most, where I could say it's time for me to turn this off and just know that I have the peace of mind that no one can get to this account but me," Kilmer said.
The app Scott has is one of several that some banks are offering. They are designed to let customers prevent unauthorized charges.
Here's how it works:
Open the app and press the "activation" switch. The debit card is "on" and transactions are approved.
But if you slide the activation switch the other way and try to swipe, the card is declined.
"We're all familiar with the bank systems that identify suspicious activity, but this is one that actually stops the fraud before the transaction occurs," Kilmer said.
Robb Gaynor of Malauzai Software, the maker of the app Scott uses, predicts this technology will be the next big thing in banking. He says, right now, more than 80 smaller banks and credit unions are offering their app for debit cards, and the functions of this technology go beyond turning a card on or off.
"You can also do things such as: asking for ATM limit increases, point of sale increases, or letting the bank know if you're going to be outside of the country," Gaynor said.
Keep in mind though, in order to change any card settings with an app, you've got to be digitally connected. If you lose your phone or the battery dies when your card is locked, you could be looking for plan B to get money or make a purchase. Nessa Feddis of the American Bankers Association says these applications could be beneficial to customers and to banks but that when it comes to security, nothing is foolproof.
"Any system can be compromised, it's a matter of staying one step ahead of the fraudsters ... If this system becomes more popular fraudsters of course will then try to break down the barriers," Feddis said.
But Gaynor believes his company is ready for that.
"Mobile banking is secured in multiple layers. From things such as embedding certificates in the device and on the phone, and verifying those certificates as a consumer logs in, to checking if a device has been jail broken, if malware's been installed on the Android phone," he said.
Kilmer trusts the app he uses and hopes it will help keep crooks "locked out" of his account.
"I know exactly where my money is being spent and better, where's is not being spent," he said,
The American Bankers Association recommends you still keep a good eye on your account even if your card is "locked" most of the time. And though fraudulent transactions can be a pain to dispute, they point out customers are not on the hook for them financially. Whether big banks will adopt this technology depends on whether it grows in popularity at the banks that already use it.