You are about to board a plane when you suddenly realize that you have a measly $5 in your account for your trip. That's when you pull out your smartphone and, in a matter of seconds, magically deposit the needed cash into your checking account. From big national chains to smaller regional outposts, banks have improved the functionality of mobile banking so that consumers can transfer funds, pay bills or check balances whenever and wherever they may be. However, before making mobile banking part of their routine, consumers should know that this convenience comes with one hiccup - a lapse in security. Here we look at a few mobile banking pitfalls and steps you can take to prevent becoming a victim of mobile scams. (For more, see Mobile Money: Using Your Cell Phone To Transfer Funds.)
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Text messages are not encrypted (a method of securing data in transit), which means using a text message to receive updates or communicate with your bank is more susceptible to interception. And experts say that in the event a phone is stolen, sophisticated hackers could retrieve text messages, even if you have deleted individual messages. A good way around this threat is to refrain from corresponding via text when the information being transmitted could be potentially detrimental to your financial security if it falls into the wrong hands.
2. Unauthorized Access
Because mobile platforms aren't equipped with the same security layers as websites or ATMs, they are more vulnerable to fraudsters, who repeatedly change their identities and gain access through a series of quick attempts. Fortunately, users can take extra steps to increase their protection, such as adding additional passwords and encryption barriers that aren't provided by your bank. For example, you should set up the password-protect option on your phone and when it's not in use, lock it. Where available, another idea is to install security software on your mobile phone.
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3. Password Theft
Once someone has discovered your banking password and hacked into your account, there isn't much you can do. But in advance, you can protect yourself from this debacle by installing remote-wipe options, a way to erase the information on your phone without physically having it in your possession. You can activate this if our phone goes missing. Select banks offer remote-wiping as a free, downloadable application. Similarly, the MobileMe service allows Blackberry and iPhones users to buy this feature. (To learn more, check out 5 Money Transfer Technologies And Their Risks.)
4. Fraudulent Apps
While applications, or "apps", are what allow you to check your account balance or move money to another account from your cell phone, they also are an added risk for your mobile security. Some have called fraudulent apps the next generation of phishing scams; if you download a fraudulent application, it could be used lift account and other sensitive information from your mobile device. For example, last January, Google removed 50 applications available for the Android phone due to concerns they may be virulent. To protect your mobile security from an application scheme, don't click on pop-ups that advertise apps. You can also check with your bank about the validity of any financial app you are considering, or if possible, download the application directly from your financial institution's website. (Learn more in 5 New Phishing Scams To Watch Out For.)
5. Dropped Calls
Mobile phones are small, compact and portable, but the downside is that they are easily lost or stolen. A criminal who hacks into your cell phone can retrieve personal information, account passwords and proprietary texts. In the event that your phone is stolen, you should also call your bank; this way, the bank can closely monitor your account.
One Last Tip
Remember, the best defense is to be your own activist; always keep track of your bank account and watch for atypical or suspicious activity. Setting up automatic electronic alerts from your bank may also help you stay on top of monitoring your fiscal situation. (For more tips, check out our Banking Tutorial: Safeguarding Your Accounts.)