Thieves’ New Target: Mobile Banking

a young business man carrying a bag over his shoulder as he walks outside and looks at his phone

Mobile banking is growing in popularity, and thieves are taking full advantage of it.  Now is the time to consider the trends and how you can protect yourself from fraudsters who are trying to access your financial information through your apps.

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) shared that cyber thieves are using malware to hack mobile banking apps and steal personal data from unsuspecting consumers.  Criminals have had so much success with this new ploy that even the FBI has taken notice.1

And there are plenty of targets.  Over half of consumers who own a smartphone use mobile banking.2

How does it work?

You click on an ad or a link from an unknown source, and unbeknownst to you, the malware enters your phone.  The malware infiltrates your mobile banking app(s) and gathers information whenever you use the app(s).

Thieves use the malware to collect anything from bank balances to actual credentials, which can then be used to access your account(s).  The information is then sold to other thieves for continued use and profit.

How can you protect yourself?

First, don’t click links from unknown sources, especially in emails or text messages, because they are most likely scams from fraudsters.

If you see an ad that interests you, investigate the offer in a different way.  For example, let’s say ABC is the name of your bank.  One day, you’re scrolling through a shopping website, and you see an ad for a new rewards card through ABC Bank.  Perfect!  You’ve wanted a credit card with rewards, so you click on the ad.  What you don’t know is that the ad isn’t actually from your bank; it’s a fraudster posing as your bank and waiting for you to input your personal account information.

Instead of clicking on the ad, type in the web address you know belongs to your financial institution and search their website for the deal you saw.  (Don’t know the website by heart?  Look at a recent bill or bank statement for contact information.)  It may take an extra step or two, but that’s better and safer than clicking on a random ad and becoming a victim.

Second, keep your phone and apps up to date.  Taking the time to download a new version of your mobile banking app can seem like a hassle you’d rather skip, but the update could include repairs that improve the integrity of the app and its security.  The WSJ article gave a great example:  a major technology retailer recently made a mobile software update in order to fix “a security flaw that could allow a hacker to remotely take control of the operating system.”

Third, consider adding extra security like additional PINs or passwords and installing anti-virus software.  People often have anti-malware and anti-virus software for their desktop computers, but they don’t think about doing the same for their phones.

And, as always, remember that you can have a team of Fraud Resolution Specialists™ and a plethora of resources available to you through the My Secure Advantage™ (MSA) Financial Wellness program.  As an MSA member, you can get access to identity theft protection services that go beyond mobile security with features like credit monitoring, high-risk transaction monitoring, alerts for suspicious activity, et cetera.  For more information, talk to your Money Coach at 888-724-2326.


1Sidel, Robin.  “Mobile Banking Heist: Hackers Target Your Phone.”  The Wall Street Journal.  Dow Jones & Company, 26 Aug. 2016.  Web.  2 Sep. 2016.

2Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.  Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016.  Washington, DC: Federal Reserve Board, Mar. 2016.  Web.  2 Sep. 2016.