The 5 Most Dangerous Mobile Banking Habits
by Alex Matjanec , September 14, 2015
52 percent of smartphone owners with a bank account use mobile banking, according to the Federal Reserve, and more than half of users log in at least 2 to 3 times a week. There is good reason for this momentum. Mobile banking is convenient and makes it easy for people to stay on top of their finances. However, that convenience can come at a price. By transferring money, checking your balances, or scheduling bill payments from your phone, you could unwittingly put your banking information at risk.
Here are the five most dangerous mobile banking habits that users should avoid.
• Using public WiFi
Banking when you are out and about can be tempting, but using public WiFi to log in to your bank’s mobile app, or any other financial services app, is not smart. For the most part, information sent through a public hotspot is not encrypted. This makes it vulnerable because other people on the network could access your activity. And if you are using an unsecured Wi-Fi network, this opens your highly sensitive financial data up to hackers.
The smartest approach is to avoid using public Wi-Fi altogether. If you must, there are still a couple of steps you can take your protect your information. First, access your bank’s app over the Internet instead of using your bank’s app, as long as it is encrypted. The “https” at the beginning of the web address will let you know whether it is encrypted or not. Alternatively, you can purchase Virtual Private Network access, which automatically encrypts your information even when you’re using an unsecured network.
• Leaving your phone unlocked
Just 36 percent of smartphone users say they use a lock code or PIN to protect their device. And in 2013, there were 3.1 million reports of smartphone theft in the U.S. and another 1.4 million were reported as lost and never recovered. Smartphone theft is rampant, and leaving your phone unlocked makes it far too easy for thieves to gain access to your sensitive information. Losing your phone is bad enough without identity fraud on top of it.
Locking your phone is the first line of defense for keeping hackers out of your sensitive financial information and preventing them from wreaking havoc on your life. The latest phone models scan your fingerprint for entry, so you don’t have to “deal with” entering the 4-digit code.
• Storing sensitive information
Just as many people don’t lock their phones for convenience’s sake, too many people use auto logins for their mobile banking apps. Yes, entering your username and password every time you log in to a mobile banking app (or any app that involves payments) can be a hassle; however, if anyone gets their hands on your phone, they have total access.
The smarter option for managing multiple cards and logins is to use a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Android Pay. You connect your debit/credit cards to these apps and they encrypt your information. Then when you pay online or in-person, you don’t have to enter your card number, and since your information is encrypted, it is also safe.
If you do not want to use one of these apps or do not have a compatible device, then make sure to log in manually every time and log out when you are done. Even if your mobile banking app automatically logs you out after a certain period of time, there is still a window of vulnerability.
• Opting out of alerts
Most mobile banking apps today give you the option to receive security alerts on your phone when critical changes are made to your bank account. These can include changes to your username or password, unusual log in activity, large transactions, and changes to your email address and phone number. Opting out of these alerts is a big mistake because you may not even realize if your accounts have been hacked until it’s too late. Signing up for alerts only takes a minute. You can also enable alerts for other financial services apps, like Mint, that monitor multiple bank or credit card accounts at a time.
• Password laziness
Around 14 percent of banking customers say they never change their passwords. This is a huge mistake. A strong password is not only a good defense against hackers, it is a necessary one. A strong password is one that a hacker could never be able to guess. You want to avoid using identifiable information like an email address, physical address, kids’ names, pets’ names, or birth dates. In addition, a strong password involves a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Third, a strong password requires regular updating.
Finally, you do not want to use the same password for all your banking or financial apps. A study from CSID found that 61 percent of Americans use the same password on multiple sites. Using the same information to log in to multiple accounts, multiple times a day makes it easier for a thief to gain access. Once they do, they have access to your entire financial world.
These simple steps will have a dramatic impact on the safety of your sensitive financial information, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
How can you minimize your risk?
Avoid the tricks by being aware of the tactics:
• Don't respond to unsolicited emails or telephone calls from an unknown or untrusted source. Verify the identity of an individual claiming to represent an organization by contacting the organization directly.
• Be especially wary of emails that ask you to verify your information or provide sensitive information. Don't open attachments contained in a suspicious email.
• Keep the software on your computers and devices up to date through regular patching. Use automatic update settings on your security software, operating system and Web browser.
• Only install third-party applications from trusted sources.
• Discuss security awareness best practices with your family, friends, colleagues and community.
Vacation time means fun...and potential fraud
Here are 5 simple ways to lower your risk.
The summer travel season is here, and thieves are just as ready as you are! While monitoring like Shazam's Falcon Fraud manager certainly helps us minimize your risk, it's always wise to be proactive in protecting yourself.
These simple steps can help safeguard your account while you travel.
1. Contact your financial institution before you leave
This is as much for your convenience as safety. If they're unaware you're traveling to Disney World, for example, they may freeze your account when a purchase is made there. Share as much detail as possible - dates, cities, how much you might spend, and how you can be reached.
2. Clean out your wallet
Carrying a lot of credit and debit cards on vacation only increases the likelihood that one of them will become lost or stolen. Take only what you need, and make sure your limits are high enough to cover all expenses.
3. Make a stop at the copy machine
Copy or scan the front and back of each card you plan to take. Be sure your account number and toll-free customer service number are legible (if you're traveling internationally, make sure you have appropriate phone numbers). Store the information somewhere other than where your card is, such as a hotel safe.
4. Keep an eye on your cards
Food servers and store clerks can steal card information easily with a skimming device, so don't let your cards out of sigh. If that's not possible, consider paying with cash. And remember, it's perfectly OK to let your instincts guide you. If something seems fishy, go somewhere else.
5. Check your balance frequently
Carefully monitoring your account is a great way to combat fraud. If your financial institution has Internet or mobile banking, take advantage of it by checking your balance several times each day.
There are a number of ways to keep your money and personal information safe. Keep your Social Security card at home in a safe and secure location. Only provide your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.Replace paper checks, statements, and invoices with electronic versions if offered. Shred documents containing personal or financial information before discarding.Protect your passwords and PINs and do not share them with anyone.Ensure that any transactions you do online are secure. Look for the padlock icon and https:// on the website address.Keep your computer updated with operating system and other software updates and patches. Use a current and functioning anti-virus and anti-spyware solution. A firewall helps prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer. Be especially wary of attachments and links inside email messages and be cautious of the programs you download from the Internet.Never respond to an email or text message requesting that you provide personal information to verify an account or re-activate a service.Review your credit report at least annually and look for suspicious or unknown transactions. You can get a free credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Even if you follow all of these tips, it is still possible to become a victim of fraud. As soon as you realize you are being scammed or robbed, report it!
Helpful links: Federal Trade Commission – Your Rights: Credit ReportingNational Fraud Information Center
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