Technology

Safe Ways to Bank With Your Smart Phone

Follow these steps to lower the risk of having your personal information stolen.

Using your smart phone to check your bank account balance or deposit a check is convenient. But is it safe?

Hackers are getting better at finding ways to tap into smart phones and capture people’s account numbers and other personal information. However, there are ways to lower your risk of becoming a victim, says Michael Gregg, a cyber security expert and founder of Superior Solutions. Here are his tips:

Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access accounts online. Use your phone provider’s network, instead, because it’s more difficult for hackers to tap into it. Public Wi-Fi connections, on the other hand, are easily compromised not just by savvy cybercriminals but by anyone who downloads a free program, which allows users to see what others are doing online and log onto their accounts as them.

Watch out for smishing (fake text messages). If you get a text message supposedly from your financial institution warning you that there may be a problem with your account, don’t click on any links or call a number in the message. The link could take you to a phony site with malicious software that will give criminals access to your phone. And the number could connect you with scammers who are trying to collect your account information. Go directly to your bank’s Web site to check your account or to get a customer service number. And if you get a text message asking you to download a security update for your phone, don’t be fooled. Smart phone makers don’t send out security updates by text message, Gregg says.

Be careful where you browse. Go to sites you know to conduct financial transactions. And before downloading any banking applications, check your financial institution’s site to make sure it offers one. Apple puts all apps for the iPhone through serious scrutiny, but other smart phone makers do not. A year ago, more than 50 fraudulent mobile banking apps appeared in the Android marketplace and were removed once they were discovered -- after many had bought and downloaded the apps.

Don’t jailbreak your iPhone. You’ll lose your security mechanisms, Gregg says, if you tamper with your iPhone so it can run on another service provider’s network or download additional apps.

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