Published in: Banks | March 25, 2020

7 Security Risks of Mobile Banking -- and How to Avoid Them

By:  Kailey Hagen

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Hackers want your money, but you don't have to make it easy for them.

There's no denying that online and mobile banking has made managing your money a lot easier than it used to be. No longer do you have to hop on the phone or run down to your local bank branch to deposit or transfer funds. All you have to do is sign into your account and click a few buttons, and your money goes where you want it to automatically. 

Unfortunately, this easy access has also made things a lot more convenient for would-be bank robbers. It no longer takes weeks of planning a coordinated heist. All you need is a little hacking skill and an unsuspecting victim who's not careful enough with their passwords. 

That's not to say that online and mobile banking is unsecure, but you need to be careful about how you use it to ensure you're not inadvertently giving others access to your financial accounts. Here are seven security risks you definitely want to avoid.

A man looking upset and leaning against a balcony railing while looking at his phone with his head resting in one hand.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Using a fake mobile banking app

Some scammers have created fake mobile bank apps to get you to enter your password and other private details. Once they have that information, they can turn around and use it to access your real bank account and take out your money. Always read reviews and make sure you're dealing with the real app for your bank before downloading one or trying to log in. You can also try going to your bank's website and clicking on the link to the download page for its mobile app to make sure you're using the right one.

2. Using your mobile banking app on public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi might enable you to save your monthly cell phone data, but it also makes it much easier for hackers to access your phone and see what you're doing. It is possible for them to hack into your phone when you're using cellular data, too, but that is much harder to do. Always stick to cellular data if you need to access your financial accounts in public, or better yet, wait until you're on a private Wi-Fi network to log into your bank account.

3. Not updating your phone's operating system or apps

Installing updates can be a pain and can keep you from accessing your phone or apps for a while. However, you should always do it anyway. Some of these updates are important security patches that fix flaws in an app that might let hackers more easily access your data. Outdated software is also easier to hack in general. Whenever your phone notifies you about an update, install it as soon as it’s feasible, especially if it's for your mobile banking app.

4. Storing passwords and PINs on your phone

You might decide to keep a note on your phone with your bank account password or PIN if you're prone to forgetting it, but this is dangerous, too. If you lose your phone and a would-be thief finds it, they can easily gain access to your financial accounts, and you probably won't even notice until your money is already gone. Try to memorize your passwords, especially your bank account password, so you don't need to store them on your phone or computer.

5. Using an easy password

The days when "Password" was considered a secure password are long behind us -- if they ever existed at all. Fortunately, most online accounts, including mobile banking apps, no longer allow you to use such simplistic passwords. You must choose something that has a mix of capital and lowercase letters with some numbers and symbols thrown in. These types of passwords are more difficult to hack, so using one of them helps keep your account secure.

You should also use different passwords for all of your online accounts -- or at least use a different password for your mobile banking app -- so that hackers who gain access to one of your online accounts can't break into all of them. Changing your password every couple of months, even if you don't need to, can also keep hackers from accessing your banking information.

6. Not password protecting your phone

Modern smartphones let you enter a passcode or open your phone with a fingerprint scanner so that no one else can access your phone without your permission. This extra layer of security can prevent others from hacking into your mobile banking account or gaining access to other personal information stored on your phone that might help them answer your bank's security questions. Take advantage of these security features to keep your bank account and other personal information protected.

7. Not signing up for security alerts

Security alerts are messages sent to your phone or email that tell you about new or suspicious activity regarding your bank account. It might be a login from a new device or a purchase that seems suspicious. These alerts can help you quickly identify when your identity has been compromised so you can take action to stop the thief from draining your account. Enroll in these alerts if your bank offers them and check your bank accounts regularly for signs of suspicious activity.

Mobile banking apps are really useful, and they're not going away anytime soon. But they're also not immune to attack. Avoiding the seven above mistakes is crucial if you want your bank account to remain private.

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