The possibility of having your mobile phone hacked or stolen might cause you to feel hesitant about engaging in mobile banking. However, there are steps you can take that could protect you from fraudsters who are ready to pounce on your personal financial information. It is possible to have both convenience and safety. When the proper precautions are taken, mobile banking can be a great way to keep track of your balances, to deposit checks, and keep tabs on your transactions.
Consumers have been slow to use their phones to do banking, but they are gradually raising their comfort level. Roughly 39% of all mobile phone owners used their phones to access banking services last year, according to a recent Federal Reserve report. This is up from 33% the year prior and 29% in 2012. Among those who own smartphones, 52% engage in mobile banking, a 1% increase from the year before.
Here are a few ways to keep your digital wallet safe.
1. Enable your phone’s screen-lock feature
Setting a passcode on your phone or tablet will provide an additional layer of protection. When you set a password, this will make it more difficult for thieves to use your device if it is ever lost or stolen. Many mobile phone owners don’t take this simple step. A survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center found that only 36% of consumers set a screen lock with a four-digit PIN.
2. Don’t reuse passwords
It might be convenient to keep using the same username and password for all of your accounts, but it’s not smart. If a hacker gets just one of your passwords, all of your accounts will be compromised. Take the time to mix things up a bit. Make sure to use a combination of numbers, letters, and special symbols so that it will be harder to guess your password.
“Make sure to set up different usernames and passwords than used on other accounts or elsewhere on the Internet. Be sure to log in from a secure connection, and stay away from Wi-Fi in public areas,” Greg McBride, senior vice president and chief financial analyst at Bankrate, told The Cheat Sheet.
3. Utilize mobile security apps
Lookout mobile security provides an app that offers protection against pesky spyware and malware. The app also features tracking for lost or stolen cellphones and warns you about apps on your phone that can access your location and personal data. Another useful app is TrustGo, which features a meta-search engine that can categorize apps based on threat level. This is good for helping you decide which apps are safe enough to download. Other features include data backup and device protection.
4. Watch out for nosy neighbors
If you happen to be doing your mobile banking at a coffee shop or some other public place (and this isn’t recommended, by the way), keep one eye on those around you. Your table mate might seem distracted with answering email or reading the latest news, but the opposite might also be true. Some people just pretend to look busy so that you’ll let your guard down.
“Beware of ‘shoulder surfing’ or wandering eyes if you are logging in from your mobile device while on the go,” warns McBride.
5. Monitor account activity
Make an effort to stay on top of your account transactions. This way, you’ll immediately know if there are any purchases you don’t recognize. Unusual activity is one of the first signs that a hacker may have gained access to your account.
“Monitor accounts regularly to be on guard against unauthorized activity, and if any is detected, report it to your financial institution immediately. Signs of unauthorized access include your password not working, your email address or mailing address being changed, and of course, unauthorized activity, particularly large withdrawals or purchases,” says McBride.