Golden Handcuffs: New Wristbands Make Mobile Payments Easy
Banks are so used to getting slapped on the wrist and having to pay civil fines, they’ve come up with a way to kill two birds with one stone.
You used to have to make a phone call to get bailed out of trouble. Today you can use a mobile payment app on your phone for certain services. But, tomorrow there will be mobile payment wristbands you can wave across vendor terminals to buy all sorts of things, maybe even a get-out-of-jail-free card.
It takes the meaning of being slapped on the wrist to a whole new level.
U.S. Bancorp is testing a mobile payments wristband. The device, made by VITAband Inc., is actually a medical ID wristband with an embedded payment chip that can be read by a radio transceiver on the other end of a service counter or vending machine.
The rubber medical wristband doesn’t actually store your personal health information. It gathers it in a database and displays a phone number that that can be called if medical services are needed. Too bad the payments app isn’t quite as secure.
Mobile payments are all the rage. Banks want us to transact, transact, transact. The easier they make it for us to swipe, wave and slap, the more we buy and the more they collect their interchange fees from merchants. And, of course, the more they get to charge us for the credit and banking services they so graciously provide us.
Wristbands are the latest iteration of the push. Because it may be too much trouble to actually take out your smart phone, or heaven forbid open it up and activate the required app, by wearing your wallet on your sleeve, so to speak, you are wrist ready at all times.
It all sounds so “smart” until you ask yourself, how safe is it really? If there are ways to read magnetic imprints from terminals and to intercept pin numbers and other data floating through space, what’s to prevent fraudsters from un-cuffing what’s on your wrist?
Innovations in the virtual payments world are outpacing advances in security applications. But, that doesn’t seem to matter to banks. They figure federal laws protect consumers by limiting some of their exposure to theft and what banks lose to fraud they write-off. What they can extract from merchants and consumers, however, is golden.
So, if you’re wondering why no bankers have been jailed for any of the financial crimes they’ve committed lately, it may be because they’re wearing extra thick wristbands and handcuffs are probably equipped with payment receivers.