This week, TransUnion – yes, the credit reporting agency – launched a new app for the iPhone (it already announced a yet to be released Android app some time ago). But do we really need a Transunion phone app on our phones? Does the information change often enough that it would warrant around the clock access; especially considering this information used to be harder to get than the Pope’s shoe size?
Apparently, there are those who believe it is a ‘must have’. More on that a bit further down, though.
TransUnion covers more than 500 million consumers and 45,000 businesses around the globe. This latest addition, reads the presser that accompanied the announcement, means consumers are better able to manage their credit anywhere in the world while also serving as a viable option for monitoring their financial lives, no matter where they are – all courtesy of the nifty TransUnion phone app.
The new app is designed to allow us to plunder through our credit information sign up for alerts any time there’s activity and to helps us better protect ourselves from identity theft. This, says TransUnion, is now available “wherever and whenever they need to access their credit information”.
But what if, in all of our efforts of keeping that information close to us, we’re doing just the opposite of our intentions? What if we’ve become our own worst enemies? Are we laying bare our credit card and banking information for anyone with two seconds of hacking experience to take over?
The Trans Union Reality
Earlier this year, an investigation into the latest technology and identity theft, conducted by CBC News, provides insight into a particularly bothersome reality. Using a lawyer who specializes in both privacy laws and technology, she was given one of the more popular smartphones and asked to see what she could do with it. The phone was equipped with the Google Play store app that reads credit or debit card information for businesses – though legally – and what she was able to collect was startling.
What she found was that simply walking by a consumer, perhaps even pausing behind the consumer, the Google app was able to read the credit card information even through handbags and wallets. It took mere seconds. Once the information was stolen, the investigation took it a step further and used the credit card to purchase a soft drink.
In other words, loading our smartphones with information we wouldn’t otherwise carry in our handbags or briefcases seems a bit like asking for trouble. How many people do you know carry around a hard copy of their credit report from TransUnion (or any of the agencies)?
Another study, this time conducted by Country Financial, reveals that more than half of American adult consumers incorporate online banking into their arsenal of tools. They also use apps on their smartphones in their efforts to staying linked to their finances.
People are more mobile than ever before; with TransUnion’s credit monitoring App, they are connected to their credit information whenever and wherever they want it,
said Julie Springer, vice president at TransUnion.
With our App, members can review their information frequently – and a key to financial success is to stay informed and monitor progress on achieving those financial goals.
Not only that, but you must have a TransUnion credit monitoring membership to download the app. That costs $7 a month.
Third Party Apps as Culprits
The other question that’s bound to result in more confusion is the use of those third party apps as a whole. According to About Threats, a study completed by Trend Micro, there were 350,000 malicious apps making the rounds in 2012. Those numbers are expected to increase every year. With more than 125 million smartphone owners, all of us who are happy to be digitally connected, the broader picture is clear: the mobile threats are upon us, the high risk apps will spread quickly and the maliciousness can only continue to grow. But let’s take it a step further:
While many are spreading from user to user, it’s the URLs that smartphone users are clicking that are serving as a digital ground zero of sorts. These APK files, as they’re known, contain massive amounts of data and they’re being used to travel fast, complete with all of those pesky problems that don’t go away overnight. All roads lead to the third party apps – and for this particular study, they considered the Android phones as the most popular targets. Until now. Bring in the iPhone and the potential for scammers to further wreak havoc are tremendous. So what exactly are those third part apps, via the bad URLs? Take a look:
- Browser Updates
- Gaming Apps
- Financial Apps
- Flash Player
TransUnion Phone App Confidence
So excited is TransUnion that it’s included a sweepstakes into the mix with winners claiming $5,000 gift donations for their hometown’s schools. Looks like that might not be the best kind of promotion, though. Naturally, the only place you can download the new app is via the Apple online store. No word yet on who will host the Android apps, especially considering the new TransUnion phone app isn’t exactly striking big changes. In fact, as we go to press, there have been three ratings in the Apple store and none were pleasant or beneficial for the company:
Doesn’t work. After typing in user name and password and clicking log-in, all the info deletes itself cause a log in error.
Installed this app and every time i went to open it i got an error and was told to go to the website. What’s the point of an app if i have to go to the site every time?
Technically worthless – does not let you log in to the app. Not sure why they don’t fix it. Should be removed. Who knows, maybe it’s just a fake and they’re stealing my password.
One final note: Until September 15, those who download the app will be entered into the TransUnion School Spirit Sweepstakes mentioned above. Along with the donations to schools, winners might also win gift cards, iPhones and more.
What are your thoughts? Do you need that kind of heavy-duty credit monitoring on your phone? If you’ve downloaded it, share your thoughts with us and let us know your opinion on how the app is working for you.