The advent of mobile devices has enabled a host of conveniences that many people never before thought possible. You can transfer money, pay bills, record transactions and keep track of your personal finances, all from your smartphone.
However, with this technology comes hazards that can ruin your finances if you're not careful and vigilant in protecting your personal information. Before you download any personal finance app, keep the following tips in mind.
Protect Your Personal Information
In order to effectively use most personal finance apps, you must enter sensitive information, such as your bank login and password, with which criminals can gain access to your accounts. Confirm the validity of all apps before downloading, and if you get online through a public access point, commonly known as a free wireless hotspot, verify the exact name of the access point with the retailer first. One way criminals can steal your information is to set up a fraudulent one.
Beware of Fake Apps
As mobile technology gets smarter, so do the criminals. There is a range of fake apps on the market. In fact, Google recently removed over 50 apps from its marketplace, as they were found to contain malware that would allow a criminal to virtually take over your device. To avoid being fooled, look for spelling errors in the description of the app (a major red flag), and never click on pop-up advertising in an app.
Apps Shouldn't Substitute Financial Planning
Most apps are designed for the masses and not necessarily for your unique personal financial situation. They may not account for your complete financial picture, and therefore, the info they provide could be skewed. Some apps even disarrange spending transactions. The point is that mobile apps cannot entirely replace a thorough offline look at your financial situation and goals.
Your Mobile Device Could Be Stolen
According to the security firm, Lookout, around $30 billion worth of mobile phones were lost last year - and the more personal information you carry on your phone, the more likely a lost or stolen phone could result in theft of your accounts or of your identity. Be sure your phone is password-protected, with security software installed, and that it has a remote wipe capability so you can clear your device if it is lost or stolen.
Read-Only Access Can Be Misleading
Just because an app has "read only" access to your information - meaning a criminal can't access your accounts - doesn't mean you're safe. A sharp criminal can simply view your spending habits or other private financial data, then contact you and reference this to trick you into releasing your password or other sensitive information he or she could use to steal your identity or money.
The Bottom Line
Personal finance apps can make managing your money a breeze. However, with all the risks involved, think twice before downloading any app that requires your bank account login or other personal information.
If you feel uncomfortable using mobile technology, consider using offline personal finance management software, such as Quicken or Excel. The last thing you want is to have your identity stolen just because you want to do your banking on the run.