Secure Credit Card Buys With Selfie

Cell phones make it quick and easy to make purchases online. But as more Americans make more mobile purchases, they are at a greater risk of becoming targets of fraud.

Cases of fraud involving cell phone or iPad purchases jumped by 70 percent last year. To combat this, MasterCard will soon unveil new face recognition software for customers to confirm their identities before making a purchase.

Customers will upload a video of themselves -- basically a selfie -- and the technology will confirm if the person who's making the purchase is the actual cardholder.

Experts say the technology behind the concept is solid.

"Facial recognition algorithms are actually 99 percent accurate at this point," said Joe Rosenkrantz, a facial recognition expert. "As of 2006, they'd achieved human accuracy."

Here's how it will work:

First, you’ll have to download the MasterCard Identity Check app. If you choose to authenticate your identity with a facial scan, you would hold up your phone and blink, as the app scans your features via the camera lens. That scan is then converted to an initial string of ones and zeros.

From that point on, prior to each MasterCard purchase that requires identity verification, you’d hold up your phone and blink again. That facial authentication would be matched against the initial string of ones and zeros to verify your identity, essentially serving as a “selfie” password.

But security analysts warn there's one potential flaw to this new technology.

If a thief manages to take your cell phone, they can access a video you've made of yourself -- and they can use it to assume your identity during an online purchase.

Until the new technology is available, here are some ways to protect yourself while you're making an online purchase:

  • Use strong passwords on your credit card account or app -- that means having eight or more characters, including letters, number and symbols
  • Never use any part of your social security number for a password
  • Always secure your phone with a screen lock

MasterCard will release the face recognition software next year. It will also offer the option of using a fingerprint scan to confirm a purchase.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add clarification on how the app will work.

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