Americans rely on mobile apps for just about everything—from late night shopping to maintaining an exercise routine to checking up with friends to dating. It’s no surprise that banking has become just one more aspect of life that people feel comfortable managing from their phone. Understandably, Americans’ preference for mobile and online banking has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Today, 63 percent of smartphone users have at least one mobile banking app, and for good reason. Mobile banking offers a convenient, easy-to-manage, personal solution for streamlining personal finances.
However, as is the case with any emerging technology, users must be aware of the inherent risks. Hackers can break into personal accounts if users have not taken the proper precautions. Luckily, mobile banking—the safe way—is easy to do. Here are a few steps you can take today.
1. Create a Unique Password
Passwords that contain full words, names, or searchable personal details are easy to hack. And people who use the same password for multiple accounts are taking an even bigger risk; as soon as someone hacks one of your accounts, the others become vulnerable.
Instead, use a complex and unique password to log into your banking account. Use random capitalized and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use details that can be found online (e.g., graduation date, phone number, place of employment) and avoid storing PINs, passwords, or security questions on your phone or laptop. Finally, ensure that your bank uses two-factor or multi-factor authentication so your information is protected every time.
2. Keep Your Phone Password Protected
Protecting your banking password is a great first step, but if your unlocked phone is lost or stolen, you’re still susceptible to phishing. Make sure your phone is password-protected and use a digit code or biometrics (e.g., facial recognition or fingerprint scanning) to keep your phone secure. Keep in mind, though that research shows biometrics might not be as safe as we would hope.
3. Download a Verified Banking App
As mobile banking technology advances, so do hackers’ strategies. Hackers today even develop dummy apps to lure unsuspecting people into revealing personal banking information.
Be sure to buy or download the mobile banking app from a reliable app store and verify the owner or developer of the app. If you’re unsure, you can also download the app from your bank’s website directly or call your financial institution to confirm.
4. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
When you’re out and about, logging in to Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop seems harmless enough. According to a survey conducted by cybersecurity company Symantec, 60 percent of consumers think their information is safe when they use public internet.
It is easy to assume our information is safe with us wherever we go. But the truth is that anything we do while connected to public Wi-Fi is just that: public, and therefore easily accessible to hackers of all kinds. When you’re out in public but need to access your account, use cellular data instead. Better yet, access your bank account information only when you have access to private Wi-Fi.
5. Enable Security Alerts
Even after you’ve taken the first steps to secure your mobile banking account, how can you be sure that it’s working? You should be monitoring your account regularly, but it is impossible to keep close tabs every minute of every day. You could get hacked without even knowing it.
That’s why security alerts are so important: They help you stay in the loop about any suspicious activity at any time of day or night. Although these notifications can truly be life savers, they're only as good as your ability to keep up with them. Adjust the settings on your mobile app so you can stay up to date without getting inundated with unnecessary updates.
6. Communicate with Your Bank About Suspicious Activity
So what happens if you do notice suspicious activity? You must be proactive so you can resolve the matter as quickly as possible and prevent the chance of it happening again. Your bank will have fraud protection systems in place, but if you detect something suspicious, let your bank know as soon as possible. Check your account frequently, comb through charges, and communicate with your bank immediately if anything seems out of place.
Also, don’t let fraud prevention work against you. Let your bank know when you’ll be traveling or if you’ll be making any major purchases outside of your normal spending habits (e.g., after a big move).
Whether you’re getting started with mobile banking for the first time or simply looking to brush up on the details, FSCB is here to help. Check out the latest in mobile banking by following along with our blog.