Is mobile banking safe?

Help secure your accounts with these mobile banking safety tips

Mobile banking means banking wherever you are. But with so much access right at your fingertips, you may be thinking, "Is mobile banking secure? Will a password be enough to protect my account information from being seen or stolen? Are banking apps really safe?"

All are great questions, and your security concerns in mobile banking are perfectly normal. Things like depositing a check with a photo feel much different than handing that same check to the friendly teller who always greets you by name. For someone who likes that physical money transfer, clicking a deposit button may feel like you are sending money off into the wild unknown.

With this in mind, banks have several security features that may help guard your information. And you can play a big role in helping to protect your data, too. Take a look at how banks work to secure your info, and how you can help shore up bank security on your phone.

Banks help to make safety a priority

Bank security often acts like the moat that surrounds a castle—stopping unwanted visitors in their tracks and keeping them from getting their hands on what’s inside. Here are a few ways that banks help to ramp up mobile banking security:

  • App time-out. If you forget to sign out, or leave your phone somewhere after logging in to your account, no sweat. Many mobile banking apps time out after a short period of inactivity to secure your personal data and keep people from getting ahold of your information. You’ll have to sign back in to access your account when you’re ready.1
  • Secure sign-in features. Are mobile banking apps secure? Just look at all of the ways you can protect your sign-in information. Most banks let you sign in using software that responds to you and only you—you scan and use your fingerprint, face or voice to access your account.2 You can use these options with a PIN or a password to boost your security. You might also be able to use multifactor authentication, another security barrier that confirms your identity—keep reading to learn more.
  • Real-time alerts. Ever get a text warning you about thunderstorm activity in your area? Bank alerts work in a similar way. You can choose if and when you receive account activity alerts and how you get them—as texts or app notifications. You may be able to customize your alerts to notify you when suspicious transactions are flagged.3 This way, you’ll know right away if something fishy is up so you can get straight to the problem.
  • Debit card lock. Maybe one of those real-time alerts tips you off to a security issue with your debit card, or you realize that you’ve left it at your favorite taco joint. Did you know that you can turn off your card so no one else can use it? Some banks offer debit card lock, where you can temporarily turn off your card right from your bank’s mobile app or online. Then, once you’ve solved the issue or found your card, you can turn it back on again.

Security is also in your hands

Together with the bank, you can help protect your phone and banking apps. Luckily, you don’t have to get up from the couch, or wherever you’re sitting, to make a difference. Take a look at how you can help safeguard your information with these mobile banking safety tips.

  • Download from trusted app stores. Mobile banking safety starts with where you download your app. Make sure you’re downloading the correct app on your smartphone by using the official app store for your phone.4 If you visit your bank’s website, they may also have a direct link to download the app. When you find the app, it also doesn’t hurt to check the seller name. This might be with other app information like the copyright and privacy policy. If the seller name doesn’t match your bank name or seems unprofessional, like, "Banking Appz for U, Inc." then try searching again.
  • Update software. Your smartphone requires regular updates for everything to run in peak condition, including security features. Within settings, you can usually find software updates ready to be downloaded.4 If you have app updates, you can view these in the app store where you originally downloaded your app. Available updates will appear in the menu or in the information bar at the top or bottom of your screen.
  • Create hard-to-guess passcodes and PINs. Without a password on your phone, anyone who has it can open it and potentially have access to your sensitive information. Consider adding a unique password to your phone along with facial recognition or fingerprint access.2 This helps keep unwanted users from seeing your sensitive information.

This also applies to your bank account username and password. For your phone and app, try creating a unique password for each that may not be easy to guess.5 If you need help, think of something that is unique to you—like your favorite actor. Then throw in a number with a few special characters like an exclamation mark or an asterisk and you’re ready—PhillySpecial952 can be an example of a strong option. A weak password would be your name plus your birth year, or “1234” for your pin number. Yes, it’s easy to remember, but it may be too easy for others to guess.

  • Consider multi-factor authentication. It’s called multi-factor because your account is tied to 2 things: your password and something personal that nobody else has or owns, like your smartphone.6 You give your bank your email or phone number, and they send you a message that validates your device and identity. This acts like the defensive outer wall protecting your kingdom—your data and account information.

Unfortunately, you can’t predict whether your phone will get lost or stolen. But if it happens, contact your bank as soon as you can to alert them of potential fraudulent activity. As a precaution, consider changing the username and password you use to open your bank account. This can protect you if someone is attempting to access your information with your current login details.

  • Use secure connections. You may want to think twice before logging in to your accounts on public Wi-Fi. The coffee shop you visit every morning may have free internet access, but it’s typically an unsecure network. Opening banking apps or viewing your accounts can become a mobile banking security issue because unwanted users could be viewing your information.7 If you need to check your account, it can be a good idea to use your secure home network or use a virtual private network (VPN) or a VPN app, which makes your activity private even on public Wi-Fi.8 Learn more about using VPN apps and how to download from your phone’s app store.
  • Be aware of fraud. You could potentially catch fraudsters in the act if you know what to look for. For example, your Social Security number and bank password are confidential. If you receive a text or email that asks for sensitive info like this or includes random links, that could be a red flag for a scam or fraud.9 Try to ignore or delete these messages. You could also set up real-time alerts to let you know about suspicious activity when it happens.

Mobile banking is usually built with safety in mind, like a fortress surrounding your sensitive data. But there are extra steps you can take to boost your security and help protect your accounts. Consider these tips to help improve your safety when banking on your phone.

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