Technology is rapidly changing the way we interact with the world around us. Computers that were once the size of entire rooms now fit comfortably in our pockets. Information we could only find by thumbing through an encyclopedia the size of a doorstop is now just a cheerful "Hey Siri" away.
The banking industry is no stranger to these changes either. Services that we once had to do face to face, such as transferring money or checking our account balance, are now instantly available via an app on our smartphones. These apps are designed to make our lives easier, but the question remains: are they actually safe to use?
Below, we answer all your burning questions about mobile banking, so you'll know the tricks for keeping your information safe and secure as we head further into the digital age.
What is mobile banking?
Mobile banking enables you to perform simple everyday banking tasks from your mobile device without having to visit a physical bank branch. You can check your account balance, pay bills, view recent activity, and move your hard-earned money around — usually all with the click of a button. It couldn't be simpler. Just download your bank's official mobile app to get started.
Is banking on a smartphone riskier than banking on other devices?
Here's something a lot of people don't know: banking on a smartphone is actually safer than banking on other devices (such as a laptop). Why? Because the internet can be a dangerous place, and it's all too easy to accidentally download malware onto your computer that is designed to steal your information as soon as you log in to your banking platform. By contrast, it's virtually impossible to accidentally download malware to a smartphone providing you download the bank's official app.
Pro tip: Always use your bank's official app when mobile banking. We can't stress this enough. While it may be tempting to just use your internet browser to log in to your account, it's far less secure.
What happens to my account if my phone is lost or stolen?
If your phone is lost or stolen, change your passwords immediately. When you change your passwords, you will most likely be logged out of your devices and have to enter your new password to log back in. Contact your bank to see if you can remove your phone as an access point to your account.
Pro tip: Keep your phone as secure as you can. Add a lock screen, enable two-factor authentication, and set up your mobile banking app so that it requires a passcode, fingerprint scan, or Face ID to log in.
What is phishing and how could it affect me?
Phishing (pronounce it with an "f") is when a criminal impersonates a credible institution in an attempt to steal your sensitive information — such as your username, password, Social Security number, or bank account details. If a criminal gains access to your account through phishing, they can do whatever they want with it. If this happens, change your passwords and contact your bank immediately. Your bank has security policies in place specifically to protect you in these situations.
What are the signs of a phishing attack?
If someone is phishing for your private data, they'll usually send you a message that contains one or more of the following (or perhaps the full house if they're super incompetent):
- URLs that don't match the institution (like a link for www.n26-inc.com instead of www.n26.com).
- Misspelled words, typos, different fonts, or out-of-place characters
- Requests for personal information your bank should already have
- Warnings to send money from your account immediately or else face serious legal consequences
- Claims that you need to open an attachment to view your private data
- If you get a fishy feeling (pun intended) about any messages you receive, contact your bank to see if the request is legitimate. It only takes a moment.
What about pharming? Is that something else?
Pharming isn't as well known as phishing, but it can cause just as many headaches. This is when you are redirected to a fake website that looks exactly like the official one and are then asked to enter your personal details. Pharming is dangerous because these criminals are good at making the website look 100% legit — so it isn't until after you've handed over personal information that you realize you're in trouble. Protect yourself from these scams by making sure the site you're accessing is on an HTTPS server (you should see a padlock to the left of the URL in the browser bar). If the site isn't secure, don't trust it.
Is it dangerous to use public Wi-Fi when checking my bank account?
It's best to avoid using public Wi-Fi if you want to check your bank account. You can't be certain who has access to the network or who can see the data you've sent. If you're out and about in public and do need to check your account, turn off your Wi-Fi for a moment and use your cellular network. Once you've finished, you can use Wi-Fi again.
How can I be sure that my password is strong enough to be secure?
Strong passwords have two parts to them: they're at least 12 characters long and they include a mix of numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lowercase letters. Once you create a password that's as strong as it can be, make sure to keep it secure. That means keeping it stored in a password manager, not writing it down for someone to find. And make sure to use a unique password for each account, too.
Is it safer to log in using face and fingerprint recognition than a traditional password?
Some studies show that face and fingerprint recognition is indeed safer than traditional passwords. The reasons are obvious: hackers can use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to guess your passwords, but you're the only one with your face and fingerprints. And while it is possible to reconstruct a fingerprint, it's much harder to do and probably isn't worth a hacker's time.
The N26 account is offered by Axos Bank®, Member FDIC. N26 Inc. is a service provider of Axos Bank. All deposit accounts of the same ownership and/or vesting held at Axos Bank are combined and insured under the same FDIC Certificate 35546. All deposit accounts through Axos Bank brands are not separately insured by the FDIC from other deposit accounts held with the same ownership and/or vesting at Axos Bank. The N26 Visa® Debit Card is issued by Axos Bank pursuant to a license by Visa U.S.A. Inc. The N26 Visa Debit Card may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
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