How safe are mobile banking apps? It’s a question people may be asking, following news that a serial thief in London stole thousands of pounds after taking phones and cards from gym changing room lockers.
The Met Police are investigating a series of near-identical incidents, where the thief was able to circumvent not only facial recognition technology, but also banking app passwords, and go on a spending spree in the city racking up enormous bills.
These cases highlight the importance of ensuring your mobile phone and banking apps are as secure as possible, minimizing the impact.
Here, Which? offers tips and advice to boost the safety of your device.
1. Keep phones and cards separate
First of all, never leave your mobile phone and bank cards unattended together.
If a thief has both, they can register the stolen card on your bank’s app on their own phone or computer. After entering the card details in the app, a verification code is sent to the stolen phone, which the thief can see on the screen, even when it’s locked.
Once the thief enters the security code into the app, they can gain control of your account and even change access settings to lock you out.
To stop any verification codes showing up when your phone is locked, go to ‘Settings’ on your phone.
If you have an iPhone, head to ‘Messages’, select ‘Notifications’, then ‘Show Previews’ and choose either ‘When Unlocked’ or ‘Never’. Android users should select ‘Lock Screen’, ‘Notifications’, then select the ‘Don’t Show Notifications’ option.
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2. Create a strong password and Pin
You should set up a different password for each account or service you sign up for – that way, if there’s a data breach and your password is revealed, criminals won’t be able to access all of them.
There are a few things to bear in mind when setting a strong password – for instance, it shouldn’t include any personal information, should include special characters, and you shouldn’t allow your browser to remember it for you. Our guide can explain more about.
Keep these points in mind when it comes to deciding how to unlock your phone. Picking a strong password or Pin that can’t be easily guessed will help stop thieves from accessing it.
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3. Protect your device from viruses and cyber attacks
While it’s true that newer mobile phones come with built-in security, you’ll need to keep updating the operating system to maintain the level of protection.
You could also consider installing a, which could further prevent malware, viruses and scams by monitoring background activity on your phone to stop viruses from compromising your personal data. There are free and paid-for options.
If you are an iPhone user, try to resist the temptation to ‘jail-break’ your phone, which allows you to install apps that Apple has not approved. While it does give users more freedom over how they use their device – by removing software restrictions imposed by the provider – downloading an unsafe or fake app opens you up to the risk of your phone being hacked.
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4. Check your network is secure
If you need to access your mobile banking when you’re out, avoid accessing your bank accounts from public networks – which may not be secure – and make sure you switch off the Bluetooth function on your mobile when it is not in use. This will stop any unmonitored wireless activity on your phone.
If you access your accounts using a public computer, never leave it unattended and always log out properly when you’ve finished your banking session.
You can also increase the protection of devices and apps at home by ensuring your router’s security is set to prevent others from accessing it – most will come with a strong password, so resist the urge to set it to something simpler.
5. Check your bank’s security features
If you think someone has hacked into your account, or if you spot any suspicious transactions, let your bank know immediately. It can then temporarily freeze your account and card.
Many banks will allow you to do this online or through the app – if you still have access. Otherwise, you can call their helpline.
UK banks will refund any losses caused by unauthorized transactions, as long as they don’t suspect you are involved or have been negligent. According to the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website, the bank should refund fraudulent payments by the end of the next business day.
If you’re wondering how your provider’s security compares to others, take a look atranking banks according to how safe their online and mobile features are, looking into everything from the login process to account management.
If you are in any doubt or not happy about the protection your bank offers against mobile banking fraud, you could look to switch providers. Our guide reveals theas rated by customers and our experts.
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