More and more people are using their smartphones to manage their bank accounts every day. It’s hard to deny how convenient it is to be able to make online purchases on your phone or to manage your bank account without having to go to a bank. However, the convenience of mobile banking also brings with it a new set of potential security risks. So, here are 10 tips to keep in mind when using mobile banking apps:
1. Make sure you actually need an app
Before downloading a banking app, make sure you actually need one. Try visiting your bank’s website on your phone’s browser. If your bank already has an easy-to-use mobile site, that may work just as well for you as an app would. If you do decide to use your bank’s mobile site instead of downloading an app, I would recommend you create a bookmark so you can access the site easily without having to type in the website address every time.
2. Pay attention to which app store you use
If you do decide to go ahead and download a banking app, be aware of which app store you use. App stores have different standards for which apps they will offer to the public. Google’s Android Market is open to all Android application developers, accepting nearly every app developers submit, while the iPhone App Store requires apps be put through rigorous testing first. For this reason, it is wise for users to be cautious when downloading financial apps from the Android Market. Two of the safest ways to download a banking app are to either download it directly from your bank’s website or to follow a link from the bank’s website to the app in an app store.
3. Check the source
If you’re downloading a third-party financial or banking app (for example: Mint), it is wise to do a little research on the sponsoring company or the developer’s website.
4. Read reviews
Most app markets post user reviews on the apps that they offer. Look for apps that have a fairly high number of reviews because an app that has very little feedback could be very new and what little feedback it does have could have been submitted by the developer. You definitely don’t want to be one of the first people to try a new app.
5. Read the fine print
6. Password-protect and auto-lock your phone
The app and your mobile device itself should both be protected with a password to ensure that no one but you will be able to access your accounts. Make sure that the passwords are not stored in your phone, you should have to type it in every time. It is also a good idea to set your phone to auto-lock after a set number of minutes.
7. Learn how to remotely wipe your device
If your device is ever lost or stolen, you should know how and be able to remotely “wipe” it – which means removing all of your personal data and restoring it to its factory state. iPhones and iPads, BlackBerries and Windows 7 devices come with this capability included in their operating systems, and you can download Android apps that will do it as well. It’s a good idea to learn the steps for remotely wiping your device and to write them down somewhere that will be easy to find. This way, if your device were ever lost or (especially) stolen, you won’t be wasting valuable time trying to figure out how to wipe it, you will already know what to do.
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8. Don’t use public Wi-Fi when banking
Don’t connect to unencrypted Wi-Fi when doing your mobile banking. Most smartphones and tablets can use both wireless Internet and a mobile provider’s 3G or 4G network, so make sure you’re using the latter and not the former if you’re banking or doing anything financial in public places that have free Wi-Fi.
9. Be alert to changes in your phone’s performance
If you download an app, and your phone starts performing differently (for example – responding more slowly to commands or draining its battery more quickly), that could be a sign of malicious code and it is probably best to take your device to your carrier and exchange it for a new one, since you can’t be sure that your device and user information are truly secure.
10. Download updates whenever they are available
And finally, be sure you check for available updates regularly, as often times these may include fixes to any security flaws.
So there you have 10 tips for safe and secure mobile banking. Do you use mobile banking? What tips or input do you have for the rest of us?