Smart Wallet Safety

Smart phone muggings are on the rise. Yeah, that does not sound comforting, and it was one concern I had when returning to live in the US after 6 years in Tokyo.

I was an early adopter of the so-called osaifu-keitai, or smartphone wallet. DoCoMo and Softbank, two of the cell phone providers in Japan, allow users the function of their smartphone as debit cards and/or credit cards for various companies (SuICa and Edy). This was in addition to the phone already acting as a point card (loyalty or frequent-user card) to even more companies.

Let’s say Starbucks has a loyalty or point cards and allows people to charge purchase by swiping the phone on a reader. That saves the buyer from having to bring two cards: The point card and the debit/credit card.

The card acts as a flight boarding pass. Sayonara to the old paper boarding pass!

Then there is the Japan Rail, Tokyo Metro, and Tokyo Bus cards, all combined into one SuICa card. Three less cards to bring. You can just swipe your card on the public transportation card reader.

Take a taxi, such as Nihonkotsu (one of the earliest adopter of this system), and you can swipe your phone if it has SuICa card inside it.

Talk about convenience for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

BUT . . .

There was one thing that made me an eager early adopter of this system. I was living in Tokyo, one of the safest cities in the world. Sure, crime exists, but some criminals there actually go to the police on their own to confess the crime after they do it (I kid you not!).

When I left Japan in 2008, I looked forward to any of the US smartphone companies eventually developing cell phone wallet, but with a big trepidation. The article above (see first paragraph link) focused more on the theft of smartphones that the thief mainly stole to sell immediately. Imagine as smartphone wallet becomes more common, and people start to load up their phone with money.

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