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Mobile banking: 11 ways to protect your money from hackers

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Mobile banking: 11 ways to protect your money from hackers
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In our increasingly digital society, criminals are always looking for the new frontier of cyber-theft — and one method that’s becoming more popular and more dangerous for consumers — is mobile banking.

Read more: Warning: That email from your boss could be a scam!

Hackers are targeting smartphones with malware

According to a Wall Street Journal report, cybersecurity experts are reporting an uptick in breaches of individual bank accounts thanks to a new round of malware that specifically targets smartphones.

Malware programs with names like Acecard and GM Bot are now the darlings of the criminal underground.

As hackers continue to carry out scams using our everyday activities, mobile banking has become an easy target.

Here’s why: a 2016 study found that 62% of Americans use digital banking as their primary method of banking.

So the criminals naturally migrate to where the money is. And while ATM skimmer scams and credit card breaches still pose a serious threat, Americans need to pay closer attention to new security vulnerabilities — including all digital activities.

The new types of smartphone-specific malware are built to steal your log-in credentials and they target both Android and iOS.

Read more: Equifax data breach: How to protect yourself from what’s next

How does the malware get on your phone?

Malware programs like Acecard and GM Bot can show up on your phone if you click a virus-laden text message or email from an unknown party or if you accidentally hit a scammy ad on a website.

What does it do once it’s on there?

Once the malware is loaded on your phone, it hangs out waiting until you access any financial apps. When you do, it comes alive and creates a virtual copy of the authentic banking app to trick you into thinking you’re at the right place to log on. You enter your info and bam! It gets captured by the criminals and they can then sell your info or use it to wreak all kinds of havoc on your financial life.

In order to protect yourself against these types of scams, follow these tips!

11 ways to protect yourself from mobile banking scams

Keep your operating system updated

Always make sure you install the latest software updates from your operating system. These often include security and protection updates to help protect your device.

Don’t mess with your OS

Resist the temptation to fool around with your operating system. People sometimes mess around with their OS in trying to download apps that aren’t sanctioned. Don’t do it!

Keep your malware protection updated

Make sure you install malware protection and make sure that it is updated. Clark’s Virus, Spyware and Malware Protection Guide is a great way to find free and effective options.

Skip the public Wi-Fi

You should never do any financial transactions on free public Wi-Fi. Period!

Don’t click on strange texts

Android users got a real scare last year when a report emerged that they could be hacked by text message.

Text message scams are becoming more and more popular for hackers — so if you receive a message you weren’t expecting, don’t click on any links or attachments! If it appears to be from a legit source, delete the text and call the company directly.

Cast a critical eye on text messages from your bank

Maybe you’ve signed up for texts from your bank. But then a text comes through you weren’t expecting with a link for you to click to update your info. What do you do?

While it may be legit, your best bet is to play it safe. Scammers can make texts look exactly the real ones from your bank — and very often, there’s no way to tell if it’s real or not.

So delete the text, get off your phone, and log on to a secure network (preferably from a computer with good anti-virus software on it). Then log in to your bank’s official website. If the text appearing to be from your bank was a legit one, you should see the same request for your info on the bank’s official website. Then you can give them whatever info they’re asking for.

You can also call the bank directly!

Only trust downloads directly from financial websites

When it comes to downloading mobile banking apps, be sure you only install your bank, credit union or brokerage firm’s official apps that you can find on their official websites.

Turn off auto-fetching

Disable auto-fetching of MMS for any messaging apps you use. Outlook.com has a step-by-step guide with screenshots for Hangouts and Messenger, among others.

Authentication is your friend

Use authentication features such as fingerprint or facial identification. This two-step authentication provides an added layer of security.

Here’s a guide on why you need 2-factor authentication for every online account

Check your statements diligently

Go through your bank statement line-by-line on a daily basis. Report any suspicious charges immediately.

Have a different password for each financial site

You’re going to need a unique password for each financial account you have: Bank, credit union, brokerage account, etc. That way if one is compromised, the crooks won’t have automatic access to every financial account in your life. Here are seven ways to create safer passwords for all your accounts.

Equifax data breach: How to protect yourself

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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