Your Check Is in the E-Mail, Is It Safe?

How about sending cash just by sending an e-mail? That's the idea behind a new online payments service called Square Cash, which began rolling out this week.

The service is free and requires no sign-up. To use, a person writes an e-mail, copies the company Square, and specifies the dollar amount in the subject line. The message body can be left blank or can include a message.

Once the e-mail is sent, Square will reply to the sender asking for permission to link their debit card to the payment, which they can do by simply replying with their debit card number once. Square verifies that the debit card account exists and sufficient cash is present, before sending an e-mail to the recipient. The company said it does not track the total funds in the account.

Up to $2,500

The recipient of the funds receives an e-mailed link from Square and is asked to reply to Square with his or her debit card number to receive the funds, also just the first time. There is no intermediate stored balance account, and the transaction takes a day or two, although Square says sometimes the funds show up right away. The sender and recipient are now both authorized to send or receive funds, in either direction.

Square says the actual financial transaction is communicated securely. Any e-mail service can be used, including Yahoo, Gmail or Outlook, on any device. There's also a Square Cash app for iOS and Android devices, for sending e-mail payments directly.

Initially, individuals are being targeted in this person-to-person version, but the company said it may someday offer a business-focused version. Up to $2,500 can be sent each week, debit cards need to be either Visa or MasterCard, and the service only works in the U.S. The simple verification service described above is good...

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