Better Business Bureau: Mobile banking requires safeguards

July 11, 2013 

I listened intently as my wife worked her cellphone, punching in numbers, speaking to an automated answering system and entering verification codes.

"Make a payment," she said in a loud, monotone voice.

She completed her transaction, and I interjected: "I thought you said you'd never use your cellphone to do your banking."

Her reply? "Everything is getting safer in banking with mobile devices. Why not?"

More than 12 million mobile users performed transactions - transfers, deposits, and payments - by devices, according to Mobile Financial Daily. Bank of America recently reported that customers are depositing more than 100,000 checks each day through their mobile phones, US News states. The Federal Reserve says a third of cellphone users will use mobile banking within the next year.

Without taking precautions, you could be opening yourself to potential fraud. So, it's important to take precautions to keep your money safe, including installing antivirus software on phones. Mobile banking offers conveniences that many busy people find attractive. Users should take many of the same precautions they would when banking online with a personal computer.

Most mobile payment options are applications consumers can download from a payment service, retailer Web site or through an application store on their smartphone. Generally they work as follows:

• You register your bank account, credit card or debit card information to be stored in the application on the smartphone.

• You create a password or PIN number to authorize any future payments.

• Once the information is saved, you can use the application to select what you want to buy from participating stores or websites.

• The payment shows up on your next bill or bank statement.

Software companies are developing anti-theft applications that operate on the store or bank's computers. This software can tell when you use a different device or file from a different location than normal and can intercede with verification questions that may stop theft.

Remember, this new technology is still human operated. So,

1) Research the company. Review a company history and background before sharing your bank account or credit card information. To check out a business, start at www.bbb.org.

2) Don't assume an application is trustworthy. Visit the business website to verify the source of the application. Even though many App stores review applications for security requirements, it is possible for scammers to create applications impersonating well-known companies.

3) Make sure the company has a privacy policy. Generally, the company will use a third-party processer and bill mobile payments. Make sure these details are clearly stated and every transaction is processed securely.

4) Check for hidden fees. Some transactions come with convenience fees, depending on which payment option is used.

5) Verify you will receive a receipt or confirmation. You should check when a payment is received and processed.

6) Keep track of whom you use for mobile payments. The more businesses you buy from with a smartphone, the more the phone becomes as sensitive as a wallet or purse and should be treated as such.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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