Is Mobile Banking Safe?

By Austin Kilham · January 19, 2024 · 9 minute read

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Is Mobile Banking Safe?

Mobile banking is getting more popular as consumers embrace what can be a quick, convenient, and safe way to do their everyday banking. In fact, a recent survey by the American Bankers Association and Morning Consult found that 48% of respondents said that a banking app is their top way to manage the money in their accounts.

As usage climbs, you may wonder, is mobile banking safe? For the most part, the answer is yes. Online banks typically do everything they can to keep your data safe. But you can protect yourself by learning about key security risks and simple ways to protect yourself from fraud and other threats. Read on to learn the details.

Is Mobile Banking As Safe As Online Banking?

At its simplest, mobile banking consists of financial transactions made through the use of a mobile device, such as a cell phone or tablet. Transactions range from simple ones, like signing up to have your bank send you informational text messages, to the more complex, such as paying bills, sending money to other people, receiving funds, and others.

Not all internet-based banking transactions are mobile ones. The difference between mobile banking and online banking is that mobile banking is a form of online banking — however, it’s not the only type. You could, for example, conduct financial transactions on your home computer as well. That would be known as online banking. (So, to be precise about semantics, if you are wondering, “How safe is online banking on a mobile phone?” your question is really “How safe is mobile banking on your mobile phone?”)

That said, know that typically both forms of digital financial management employ state-of-the-art security protocols. Online and mobile banking should keep you well protected (as is true for mobile payment apps). For instance, they use encryption to protect sensitive data, regular software updates, biometric authentication (especially true for mobile banking), and other security measures.

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Mobile Banking Risks To Be Aware Of

Mobile banking is simple and convenient, but don’t overlook the risks. Here are some of the top issues that could occur. Being aware of them is often the first step in avoiding them.

Your Device Could Be Stolen

Sadly, it’s a common occurrence for mobile devices to be stolen. If this happens, it’s possible that your banking apps could be accessed, especially if you don’t have adequate security features enabled or use an obvious password, such as “password123.”

Your Account Could Be Hacked

Another risk is that hackers could access your bank accounts. This can happen via a malware download or other methods. Once this occurs, the hackers can remotely gain information like your passwords and get into your cash.

There Could Be a Data Breach

There could be a security issue in which hackers tap find a security vulnerability at a particular financial institution or network of them and then access your personal information. While most financial institutions prioritize their clients’ security, this kind of event can still occur.

You Could Be Scammed

You may have heard about the kinds of bank fraud and scams circulating. They change frequently, but you might receive a text message, phone call, or email from your financial institution that looks valid, asking you to authenticate your account or change a password. If it’s from a scammer, they can get access to your accounts this way. Unfortunately, these scams have gotten very sophisticated, and it can be extremely difficult to discern what’s a fake form of outreach from what is legitimate.

Mobile Banking Safety Tips

To make sure you’re using your bank’s mobile tools in the safest way possible, follow these safety tips:

1. Create a Strong Password

Use strong passwords to protect your personal information. Passwords should be long — the longer, the better — so hackers have a harder time using code-breaking software to crack it. Strong passwords should contain a random mix of letters, numbers, and special symbols. They should also use a mix of capital and lowercase letters, and they should not contain any personal information or words you’d find in the dictionary.

Weak passwords are those that are easy to guess. As an obvious example, don’t use the word “password” as your login. Another example of a weak password would be your name and birth year, which is information that hackers can easily find. Also, don’t reuse your passwords. Come up with a fresh one every time.

2. Avoid Using Public WiFi

Another important mobile banking security tip is to be very cautious about using public WiFi. If you must use it, try to use a secured network whenever possible that requires a password to sign in. If a secured network is unavailable, the next best thing is an unsecured network that requires login information of some sort.

That said, whenever you’re using public WiFi, do not access your bank account or any other sensitive personal information. You could be jeopardizing the security of those credentials.

Also, turn off settings on your devices that allow automatic connectivity, which could permit your computer or mobile device to connect to a network that you would otherwise want to avoid. Be sure to monitor your Bluetooth connections as well, since Bluetooth can allow other devices to connect directly to yours.

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3. Use Your Bank’s Official App

Another tip to stay safe with mobile banking is to download your bank’s official app versus logging in via your browser. When you do so, be on the lookout for possible fakes. Pay attention to the developer of the app, and also look to see if there are any other apps with the same or similar names. If possible, download the app directly from your bank’s website. Otherwise, use a reliable app store.

Your bank should also be able to offer you information about their app, including the app’s security features and what information you’ll need to access it. Once you’ve downloaded the official app, conduct your mobile banking on the app instead of through a web browser, which may be less secure.

4. Don’t Save Login Information in Your Browser

Some web browsers give you the option to save your username and password within the browser — never do this for your online and mobile banking. If your phone is ever lost or stolen, this could make it easy for hackers to access your bank account.

If you’re worried about remembering your password — especially if you’re being safe and you’ve come up with a complicated one — consider using a reputable password manager. These apps can manage usernames and passwords for multiple websites and applications, and have safety features in place to protect this information from hackers.

5. Use Two-Factor Authentication

One security measure being used by many financial institutions today is two-factor authentication, which requires users to provide at least two forms of identification, such as their password and a fingerprint, when accessing their account.

Alternatively, in addition to a password, the second piece of authentication could be a numeric code that the user requests and receives via text. This code can only be used one time, preventing it from having value to hackers in the future.

Two-factor authentication vastly improves security on your phone, though it’s still possible that hackers and those intent on committing bank fraud could intercept authentication information sent to you via text or email.

6. Use Activity Monitoring

Your bank may offer you the ability to sign up for alerts for all sorts of account activities, from mobile deposits and withdrawals to wire transfers. This type of activity monitoring or user activity tracking can also boost security.

Your bank can send you quick alerts when they detect possible fraudulent activity. They may be able to send your alert via text, email, or even directly through the bank’s app. You’ll then have the opportunity to confirm or dismiss potentially fraudulent activity, allowing your bank to act swiftly on your behalf if necessary.

7. Beware of Phishy Links

Phishing scams are one of the most common forms of cyber fraud. They work by tricking individuals into giving away private information. For example, scammers might send an email that looks like it’s from your bank or a business you’ve recently been in contact with. These emails might include a link that, once clicked upon, will install a virus on your device that can gather personal data.

As noted above, these can be very convincing. Gone are the days of easy giveaways, such as typos. Be wary of phishing scams, and never open links in email or text if you aren’t 100% sure of their origin. Remember, you can always call your bank or other places of business, and should do so if you suspect a phishing scam. They can let you know whether or not they sent the email.

8. Always Log Out

When you’re done using your mobile banking app, be sure to log out to protect your information. Luckily, many banking apps will do this for you automatically; say, after you monitor your checking account to make sure the balance isn’t too low. That said, you also may want to log out of any app that might contain personal information, such as your email, social media, or mobile wallet, when you’re done using them. If your phone got lost or stolen, you’d want to make it as difficult as possible for criminals to access this information.

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Mobile Banking Safety Measures

Here’s a little more intel about mobile banking that may be reassuring if you have concerns about security. Whether traditional or online banks, most of these institutions have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into cybersecurity in an effort to protect consumers’ accounts. They’ve put into place security measures such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption, automatic logout, antivirus and anti-malware programming, firewalls, multi-factor authentication, and biometric and/or facial recognition technology.

Using these measures is also an effort to protect themselves from cyber threats. Under the Federal Reserve’s Regulation E, consumers are only liable for the first $50 lost due to unauthorized access to their account, as long as they report the activity within two days. Their bank is responsible for any loss over that amount.

If you’re unsure what measures your bank takes to protect your data, it’s reasonable to ask for more information. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, you may consider exploring other options.

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The Takeaway

As you can see, banks make an effort to make mobile banking safe. Plus, you can take additional steps yourself to further ensure mobile banking security, such as creating a strong password, using your bank’s official app, and keeping an eye out for any phishing attempts. When you’re choosing a bank, however, it’s still important to consider what security measures it has in place, along with other features such as fees and interest rates.

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