You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Online Banking: Your App Is Safest

Investopedia logoInvestopedia 03-03-2016 Tim Parker

For most people, accessing your bank or investment account information online now feels very ordinary. You may not give it a second thought, but experts say that you should. In a world where cyber threats are increasing and attacks are becoming more sophisticated, it’s time to take steps to make your online banking experience as safe as possible. 

Don’t Assume Your Bank Is Protecting You

It would be nice if your bank kept your money 100% safe, but that’s an impossible task without seriously limiting what you can do online. There are two things you can do to help protect yourself. First, choose a strong password, one that includes letters and numbers that don’t contain personal information. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it’s connected to you in any way, hackers can make that connection, too.

Second, enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires not just a username and password but some other form of identity that only that person can hold. Often it’s a random code generated from another device. Unfortunately, many banks don’t use two-factor authentication, but if yours does, enable it. 

Download the App From Your Bank

You can download your bank’s mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, but instead of searching for it in the store, go to your bank’s website and click the download link from there. This helps to ensure you aren’t downloading a fraudulent version that could steal your information.

Never Click a Link in an E-Mail

Phishing scams are nothing new, but consumers continue to fall for them. Sometimes cyber thieves send an e-mail with the bank’s logo and other branding included. This official-looking e-mail asks the user to click a link and log in to see a certain announcement or other important information. But the link doesn’t go to your bank; it goes to a site where thieves take your username and password and log in to your account. Only access your bank information from your bank’s website.

Bank From Your App When Possible

In the early days of mobile apps it was better to bank using your desktop or laptop because mobile security standards were in their infancy. Today mobile security has drastically improved, largely because Apple and Google scan all apps coming into their app stores before releasing them to mobile customers. Because of that it’s more difficult for malicious software to install on your phone or tablet.

Nevertheless, that only applies to mobile devices that have not been jailbroken (subject to a workaround that removes manufacturer restrictions and safeguards). If you’re installing apps that come from sources other than one of the official app stores, you could be asking for trouble. Also, never do your banking on public networks. If you’re at a mall with free WiFi, don’t access your banking app. Although unlikely, there’s a chance that you could become a target. 

Watch Your Account Closely

Ever heard of social engineering? Here’s an example: A woman calls a bank’s customer service line and poses as the wife of an account holder. With a recording of a crying baby playing in the background and using an agitated voice, she tells the customer service rep that she’s stuck at a gas station out of town but can’t access her account to pay for gas. The rep feels sorry for the caller and gives her access to your bank account. This appeal to the representative’s sense of compassion is a common social-engineering technique that you as the account holder can’t protect against. That’s why it’s important to constantly check your account for any signs of fraudulent activity.

The Bottom Line

You would think that online banking would be safe, due to the potential for financial loss to the banks, but cyber thieves still manage to walk away with billions because of holes in security. Follow these steps to increase your chances of not becoming a victim. 

More from Investopedia

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon