How to Protect Your Financial Info on Your Smartphone


smart phone

You might think that smartphone buzzing in your pocket or purse is relatively safe from hackers, because for years phones weren’t fraudsters’ main targets. But as smartphones have exploded in popularity, so has the chance that a hacker will steal your financial information. Here’s how they try to gain access to your sensitive information and what you can do to stop them.

Spam and SMS phishing – What is it?
Spam is the use of messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk emails, usually advertising. Most of it is just annoying, but some of it will be unsolicited offers or SMS phishing (arrives via text messages). In either case, you’ll receive messages pitching products or services. You may also receive messages that ask you to update a password, re-enter your credit card number or provide sensitive info that can be used to defraud you.

How can you protect yourself?
• Never open a message from a source you’re not familiar with. Booby-trapped attachments are often disguised in clever greetings.
• Don’t answer emails or texts that ask for personal information.
• Watch for red-flag statements such as “verify your account.” Legit companies don’t request sensitive information via email.
• Shop online with a retailer’s official app, not through an emailed or texted link. Shopping apps are designed to ward off scams. With browsers, malicious software can be downloaded to a phone without a user knowing it.
• Buy security software. It’s essential to use mobile security software and keep it updated. Mobile antivirus software can help spot and block malware-infection attempts.

Public Wi-Fi – What is it?
This is a wireless network you connect to in places like Starbucks. Since your traffic is public, there’s a chance that it is being captured. So if you’re browsing the Internet and go to a page that doesn’t use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to encrypt your communication, everything you are seeing and anything you send back (like forms you fill out or usernames and passwords) can be captured and seen by anybody else on the network.

How can you protect yourself?  Most financial sites use SSL for login information (you know you’re on an SSL site when the URL starts with “https”), but it’s still safer not to send any sensitive data over an untrusted wireless network.

Theft – How bad is it?
Thieves are snatching smartphones in alarming numbers. If a thief gets ahold of your phone, he or she may get access to all of your sensitive information contained on it. How can you protect yourself?
• Keep tabs on your device. Don’t leave your smartphone by its lonesome at a cafe or bar.
• Be discreet. Use caution when pulling out your expensive new phone when you’re in big crowds, such as sporting events.
• If it gets swiped, wipe it. If your cherished device is lost or stolen, remotely wipe it. Remote wipe is a security feature that lets you send a command to your phone and delete data.

Other important steps to take
• Update the operating system. Updates usually give you enhanced functionality and features, as well as fixes to security vulnerabilities.
• Log out of financial accounts. Make sure you log out when you finish banking through your mobile phone. Don’t check the box that asks you to save your user ID or password. Sure, it’s less convenient to log in every time. But it’s worth it to protect your financial information. It’s ultimately up to you to protect your private information. Be sure to take the steps listed above to ensure the sensitive financial information on your smartphone remains safe.

Guest post provided by Tom Dunlap, NerdWallet

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