How to Use Mobile Banking Apps Safely

4 January 2016

Checking your balance, making a transfer, even depositing a check: these used to require you to go to the bank, or at least an ATM. Today, all of this can be accomplished with nothing but an internet connection and the smartphone in your pocket. Banking apps are changing people’s relationships with their banks, making 24-hour, on-demand service a reality.

While mobile bank apps undoubtedly make it easier to manage your money, storing and using your financial information on your phone can put it in a position where it is more likely to be compromised. With these five tips, however, you can help keep your data secure while continuing to enjoy the convenience of mobile banking.

  • Secure the device: First and foremost, be sure your phone itself is safe from prying eyes. If you can, replace your phone’s basic four-digit unlock code with a more complex password. That way, if your phone should get lost or stolen no one will be able to access its contents. To help prevent your phone from being stolen in the first place, avoid carrying it in your back pocket when walking through crowds. With smartphones having access to more data than ever before, they are proving increasingly valuable targets for pickpockets, who stand far more to gain than the value of the physical phone itself.
  • Set up remote wipe: If you do misplace your phone, having a wipe function installed will allow you to remotely clear any data stored on the device in case it falls into the wrong hands. This feature is built into the Find My iPhone app on Apple devices, and is called Remote Wipe on Android devices. Get in the habit of setting it up right away when you get a new phone– once you lose it, it will be too late!
  • Lock your banking app with a secure password: Even if your phone is lost or stolen, you can keep potential identity thieves or fraudsters out of your banking account by ensuring its password is different from the one you used to lock your phone. When choosing a password, make sure to use a combination of both lowercase and capital letters, symbols and numbers that someone wouldn’t be able to guess. For more tips on how to create strong passwords you won’t forget, check out our post here.
  • Beware of public Wi-Fi: While mobile banking is all about giving people the option to check their accounts on-the-go, it’s crucial you don’t log into your banking account from an unsecured public network, such as those at coffee shops or hotels. Even if they prompt you to log in to access the web, your browsing activity on these networks could easily be spied on by anyone else also connected to the same network. Instead, flip off your Wi-Fi function on your phone and instead log in using your cellular connection. If you are using a Wi-Fi only device, wait until you can connect to a secured, personal network to sign in.
  • Research the app: Before downloading your banking application, look closely at the details to make sure it is in fact the app issued by your bank. Some fraudulent apps look legitimate in the hopes that users will enter their credentials, just to have them sent to cyber criminals. To be sure you are downloading the correct application, try navigating to the app download page through your bank’s website.

Keeping these best practices in mind, you can reduce your risk of identity theft while still enjoying the benefits of on-the-go banking. It can also be helpful to sign up for a credit monitoring service, which can alert you to certain changes in your credit file that may indicate credit fraud.