Safer Smartphone Banking

Mobile banking means access to your cash without the hassle of waiting in line at the bank.

Just pull up the app on your smartphone while you're on the go, and you're instantly paying bills, transferring money, and depositing checks. But did you ever think about where and how you use your mobile banking app could be putting your sensitive financial data at risk? It's true.

To keep you and your phone on the best possible terms with your money, we sat down with mobile expert Tim Hayden. He's the author of "The Mobile Commerce Revolution", and the head of mobile technology consulting firm TTH Strategy. Hayden has a few ideas to keep you, your smartphone, and your money all working together—and happily—while mobile.

Biggest mobile banking missteps and how to fix them

“Hands down, the biggest mistake I see consumers making is using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection for mobile banking," says Hayden. “You walk into a coffee shop or other place that your phone recognizes and your phone automatically pairs. It's easy for you, but not optimally safe for mobile banking."

When you use an unsecure Wi-Fi connection, it's easy for hackers to tap into your sensitive financial data as soon as you open up your mobile banking app. The easiest fix, Hayden says? There are two options. First, make sure that you're using a secure Wi-Fi connection whenever your mobile banking app is in use. If you want to figure out if a connection is secure, open your smartphone's browser and look for a little padlock symbol in the window where the URL appears. If there's a lock, you're connected to a secure Wi-Fi network. If not, Hayden recommends the second option of using your cellular carrier's data network.

“Cellular networks are highly secure due to the encryption," says Hayden, and he notes that they're always more secure than an unsecure Wi-Fi connection.

Hayden cites the second-biggest mistake consumers make isn't about your smartphone's network at all. Rather, it's about your password.

“Ask yourself how many passwords you truly use," he suggests. “It's not uncommon for your Facebook and email passwords to be the same as the one you're using for your mobile banking app." Using the same passwords everywhere makes it easy for mobile hackers to access all of your accounts. To make your mobile banking as secure as possible, Hayden recommends using a random password generator.

If you want to do this manually, use a handy website like Random If you want a more universal solution, Hayden recommends a free app called Blur. This web-based app syncs between your computer and smartphone, and can help you generate a unique password for every site you visit, as well as monitoring who's accessing data in your smartphone. The mobile app can be downloaded for free in the App Store and on Google Play for Android.

Add an extra layer of privacy

In addition to installing an app like Blur, Hayden says that smartphone users can add an added layer of security to their phones by deactivating ad tracking. Ad tracking may enable advertisers to crawl through your phone to learn more about you. This helps them serve you more relevant ads over time. You can shut down the snooping and limit the access to your smartphone's data by deactivating this function. For Apple device users, follow these simple instructions. For Android device users, you can discover how to shut down ad tracking here.

The bottom line on smartphone banking

So with all the warnings above, just how secure is mobile banking? “It's secure," Hayden assures. “And it's a whole lot more secure than walking around writing checks with your routing and account numbers in broad daylight." With a few simple steps—secure Wi-Fi connections, using your cell carrier's network, random passwords, and disabling ad tracking—your smartphone can become an added line of defense against hackers and identify theft.

Now, smartphone banking isn't just convenient—it's more secure than you ever thought possible.

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