Mobile banking has taken almost all of the inconvenience out of accessing and managing your money. Whether you’re saving to buy your first home, creating an emergency fund, or paying bills, you can do almost everything you need to do with a few taps of your screen and from the comfort of home–or wherever you are.
At Leaders Credit Union, it’s our mission to help our members pursue and achieve their financial goals. One way we do that is by providing them with secure tools to manage their finances, including our Leaders CU and Leaders Card Control apps. To help you keep your money safe, here are nine tips for secure mobile banking.
How Do Banking Apps Work?
Banking apps provide account holders with a way to access their account information and money without visiting a branch or ATM. Because nearly everyone has a smartphone these days, most financial institutions now have mobile banking apps to provide people with the means to manage their money even at home or traveling.
Mobile banking technology at its simplest involves something we all do every day: text messaging, also known as SMS. Before they created apps, many financial institutions used SMS notifications to inform account holders when their account was about to be overdrawn or when there was suspicious activity on their account.
When financial institutions started creating proprietary mobile apps, the earliest versions used Wireless Application Protocol, technology that allowed users to use the app to access a version of the institution’s website. Many mobile apps are now standalone applications that create a unique experience for users.
How Secure Is Mobile Banking?
One of the questions we are asked most frequently is about the security of mobile banking apps. Anytime you add a new app to your phone, you should be thinking about security, and it’s crucially important not to use a mobile banking app unless you’re confident that it’s secure.
Most mobile apps have built-in security features, making them a safe option for managing money. Information is encrypted, making it difficult for anyone to access your financial or account information.
The biggest risk for most people is not taking advantage of security features to protect themselves. Human carelessness and error can undo even the most robust security measures, so it’s important to understand which behaviors put you at risk, and avoid them.
What Are the Security Risks of Mobile Banking?
While credit unions and banks do what they can to make mobile banking secure, there are still some significant risks that you should be aware of. Here are some of the most common risks:
- Downloading an app from a spoof website or store
- Using your mobile banking application on a public Wi-Fi network
- Leaving your phone unlocked and unattended
- Not installing phone or app updates when prompted
- Not having a strong password
- Not taking advantage of your financial institution’s security features
- Spoof emails/texts, aka phishing
Most of these risks can be mitigated with common sense measures, which we'll discuss in the next section.
9 Tips for Mobile Banking Security
Most mobile banking apps are secure, but there are a lot of common sense things you can do to maximize your security and minimize your risk. Here are nine mobile banking security tips that we recommend.
#1: Download Apps from Secure Links
Our first security tip is one you can use with mobile banking. Scammers may create lookalike apps designed to fool people and help criminals access their accounts and money.
The best way to download a mobile banking app is from your financial institution’s website or an app store such as the Apple Store or the Google Store. That way, you can be sure you’re getting the right app.
#2: Use a Strong Password
When you set up your mobile banking account, one of the most important things you can do is to create a strong password. Never reuse a password you have used elsewhere or use something predictable, like your birthday or the name of your pet.
A strong password should be at least eight characters long and contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. These things make it more difficult for anybody to guess your password and access your online account.
#3: Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
Most mobile banking apps offer users the option to engage in multi-factor authentication, which requires them to enter a password and then use a second means to identify themselves before they get access to their accounts.
The two most popular MFA options are a texted code or a biometric scan. With a code, you’ll get a number sent to you in an SMS message, and you’ll be prompted to enter the code in your mobile app. A biometric scan usually involves a fingerprint scan.
#4: Use Biometrics
Biometrics deserve a separate mention because they can be used in multiple ways to protect your phone and your money. Ideally, it would be if you were protecting both your phone and your mobile app with biometrics.
If you have an iPhone, you can enable face recognition to log into your phone, and with Androids, you can scan your fingerprint. Whichever options are available to you, make sure to take advantage. As noted above, you should also use a biometric scan in your mobile app if that’s an option. These scans will decrease your risk substantially.
#5: Don’t Use Your Phone on Public Wi-Fi
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself when using a mobile banking app is not to access the app on any public Wi-Fi server. A lot of businesses offer free Wi-Fi to their customers, but we strongly suggest avoiding these when accessing your accounts.
If you must access your banking app in a public place, disconnect from Wi-Fi and use mobile data to do it if you can’t wait until you’re somewhere with private Wi-Fi to use. Remember that on a public network, there’s the potential that anybody else on the network can see and access your information.
#6: Protect Your Phone
It’s common for people to believe that mobile banking is safe because they access it on their phone, and as long as nobody else has their phone then they don’t need to worry about mobile security. That’s not the case.
The first thing we recommend is to set up your phone so it locks when it’s not in use and to lock it if you need to put it down and step away from it for any reason. That way, nobody can click on your mobile app and use it. The second thing is not to lend your phone to anybody you don’t trust. If someone needs to make a call or look something up, offer to do it for them instead.
#7: Sign Up for Security Alerts
Leaders Credit Union offers security alerts as a measure to keep our members informed of activity on their accounts. These alerts will notify you if there’s a login to your bank account from a new device or suspicious activity on your account.
We recommend opting in to all available security alerts from your financial institution. You’ll receive a text message and/or a push notification about what’s happening. That way, you can stay on top of potential issues with your account and take action as needed.
#8: Update Your Phone and Apps
Smartphones are computers and mobile apps are software. Like any other computer or software, they need to be updated regularly–and it’s essential to install updates as soon as they become available to keep yourself safe.
You should receive notifications when there are updates available. Our recommendation is to install them immediately. Often, these updates are released because they include patches to address security risks and not updating may put you at risk.
#9: Don’t Click on Links You Don’t Trust
When someone sends you an unexpected email or text with a link in it, it may be a phishing attempt. The sender is hoping that you’ll click the link and enter your account information without realizing that you’re not on your bank’s website or app.
With mobile banking on the rise, it’s become common for scammers to uses spoofed text messages to look like a security alert from your bank. Never click on the link if you're unsure where a message came from. Instead, close the message and navigate to the app. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to tell whether the notification came from your financial institution. If it did, you can address whatever issue exists. If it came from someone else, we recommend reporting the text as spam.
Get Access to Secure Mobile Banking with Leaders Credit Union
Mobile banking is convenient and provides people with an array of tools to pursue their financial goals and dreams without compromising their security. The nine tips for secure mobile banking that we’ve listed here will help you maximize your protection while still enjoying the benefits of mobile banking.
Are you looking to take advantage of mobile banking, but not sure how to get started? Our online banking quick start kit makes the process easy so you can start managing your money in the palm of your hand.