How To Stay Safe When Using Mobile Banking Apps

Mobile banking.
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According to Identity Guard, your banking app offers hackers three access points to your most private and sensitive information — on your device, during data transfer and at your bank’s server.

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Banks have made great advances in financial cybersecurity, but there are still plenty of ways you can chip in to keep your most critical data as safe as possible when banking online. Here are some tips.

Practice Basic Data Defense 

The fundamentals of safe mobile banking are not unique to the financial industry. The FTC advises that you’ll give hackers a harder time if you lock your phone, back up your data and keep your software up to date on both your devices and apps. This applies to mobile banking and all other mobile activities.

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Start by choosing strong passwords that you don’t recycle across platforms, guard your personal information closely and make sure you download the genuine bank app and not an imposter. 

Never Open the App on an Untrusted Network

According to Verizon, “Banking apps are often more advanced than their parent organizations’ underlying systems.”

Although Verizon wrote that to promote its own services, the point is worth remembering — your app is only as secure as your network. Don’t open your banking app when you’re on public Wi-Fi, and make sure you’re on a password-protected network or using your own cell phone data.

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Enable Two-Factor Authentication

If your banking app doesn’t enable multi-factor authentication by default, switch it on manually. A verification email or message is an extra step, but one that’s more than justified considering the added layer of protection that it provides. Make sure to also use 2FA for your budgeting app or anywhere else your bank account might be linked.

Say Yes to Biometrics 

No verification credential is un-hackable and some security professionals disagree about the safety and privacy of biometrics. But according to Norton, the industry consensus is that fingerprint recognition and face ID are harder to crack than alpha-numeric passwords.

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Also, according to La Trobe University, passwords are stored on the cloud and are therefore more vulnerable than biometric data, which lives on the device itself.

If Your Bank Requests Action, Stop

If you get an email, text, phone call or message purporting to be from your bank that asks you to take any action — no matter how seemingly small or immediate — assume it’s a scam and do nothing. Don’t respond to a text, submit a code, verify any information, answer any questions, click on any links or open any messages in case it’s a bank phishing scam.

There are countless variations, but Newsweek reported on a relatively new twist where identity thieves hijack the actual bank’s fraud department phone number and use it to send a text asking if you just made a purchase. When you reply “no,” you immediately get a call from the bank’s legitimate phone number asking you to verify your identity by revealing your most important information.

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If you receive a request claiming to be from your bank requesting any action, suspend communication and call the number on your statement or bank card to verify the message’s authenticity and/or report the scam.

Finish Strong When Your Session Is Done

Alliance Bank reminds its customers that some of the most important steps happen after you finish a session. Apps are vulnerable when they’re open in the background whether you’re using them or not.

Log out before closing your banking app and delete any messages or codes your bank texted you during your session.

Keep Up With Emerging Threats

A little bit of intellectual upkeep can help you live a safer online life in banking and beyond.

On Jan. 11, a Chicago NBC affiliate reported that Zelle fraud was still robbing people of hundreds of millions of dollars per year despite the fact the scam has long been public knowledge. Many who use the p2p payment service through their bank of choice simply might not have known about the ongoing fraud and its telltale signs.

Consider adding updates about online security and cyber threats to your news app of choice so you’ll at least see the headline when the inevitable next new threat emerges.

Consider a Password Manager

Just as with biometrics, the safety of cloud-based password managers is a cause of controversy. But Forbes reflects the industry consensus that — while nothing is bulletproof — password managers can be a reliable and convenient way to enhance mobile security and data management.

Before you jump in, however, there are many pros and cons to mull over. 

According to Cyber News, considerations include password managers concentrating your most critical data in one place, the risk of losing the all-important master password, and potential difficulties with backup.

As always, proceed with caution.

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A Better Way to Bank

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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