When is the last time you were inside your bank? It’s probably been awhile. With ATMs and online banking, and mobile banking, there’s rarely ever a need to visit a teller.
And with the growing number of banking apps, we can virtually carry our banks in our pockets and purses. But at what cost?
Mobile banking grew 20% in the first quarter of 2010, according to Nielsen, a New York City market research firm. Although transactions are limited and vary by bank, more are increasing these capabilities and adding apps day by day.
With the added convenience has come more concern about safety. Now our smart phones harbor details on our finances, including account information, passwords and other valuable data that is vulnerable to criminals.
If you’re thinking that it just couldn’t be that easy to steal this information off your smart phone or to breach a banking app, think again.
Although customer information is typically not saved on a smart phone after the transaction is completed, that’s not always the case with downloadable bank apps. In the past, some have been found to store critical banking information in a text format right on the phone, including user names, passwords, and banking transactions.
Part of the problem is that this technology is evolving so rapidly, and it can be difficult to address all of the vulnerabilities in a timely manner. Because the opportunity is there, many say it is only a matter of time before breaches are found and capitalized on by criminals.
App stores don’t typically review apps for security, and you most likely have not installed security software on your phone like that which is on your computer; this can spell disaster if your phone falls into the wrong hands. And, if you don’t have a passcode set up on your smart phone, you may be handing over your banking information to criminals who gain access to your phone.
Mobile banking on the fly is tempting, but when you tap into free WiFi at your local coffee shop, at a hotel, or in an airport, the network is not secure and your information can be more easily lifted.
If the easy access and convenience of banking via smart phone are just too tempting, there are a number of steps you can take to more closely safeguard your finances.
First, it is important to treat your phone like you would a credit card. Be careful not to lose or misplace it. And make sure others don’t have access to it.
SMS, or short messaging service, is the least secure way to exchange banking information and should be avoided. It’s possible to request account details by sending a message code, which tells your financial institution that the request comes from your phone. However, if you lose or loan the phone, this information is no longer confidential. Also, scammers can pose as the bank to try and obtain account details via SMS. When utilizing this method, never send out passwords, account numbers or other sensitive information.
Mobile web methods utilize Internet browsers to access bank web sites like with a computer. Most banks now have web pages formatted for mobile screens for easy browsing. However, just like on a computer, mobile browsers are vulnerable to security breaches. As this technology becomes more prevalent for smart phones, viruses and Trojan horses are being created by criminals determined to capitalize on the lack of safeguards for mobile banking. Use the same security methods as you would on a computer, avoiding e-mailed bank links that could be fake and saving the bank’s login page as a web link bookmark to ensure it is accurate.
Many banks now offer client apps that can be installed on smart phones, which will connect you directly with the bank’s servers. This makes it faster and easier to connect to your financial institution and can be simpler to navigate. These proprietary apps are probably the most secure way to bank via smart phone. Be aware, however, that sensitive information may still be stored on the phone, and it’s important to log out of the app right after using it. Also, make sure the program is downloaded from a trusted source so you don’t reveal sensitive information to an unknown party.
Bank apps and mobile sites typically require logging in with the same username and password you’d use on your computer. Make sure the programs on your smart phone don’t automatically log you into the bank account, or your information can be lifted if the phone is stolen.
Bottom line… Common sense should always prevail. Do not share passwords, account numbers, PINs or any personal information, and make sure these are not saved on the phone. Most importantly, immediately notify the bank and mobile phone company if your phone is lost or stolen.