5 ways to keep your mobile banking apps safe
How secure are mobile banking apps? That’s a question people might be asking after the news that a serial thief in London stole thousands of pounds after taking phones and cards from gym lockers.
The Met Police are investigating a series of almost identical incidents, where the thief was able to bypass not only facial recognition technology but also banking app passwords, and go on a spending spree in the city to rack up huge bills.
These cases highlight the importance of ensuring your mobile phone and banking apps are as secure as possible and minimize the impact if your phone is stolen.
Here, which one? provides tips and advice to increase the security of your device.
1. Keep phones and cards separate
Firstly, never leave your mobile phone and bank cards unattended.
If a thief has both, they can register the stolen card in the bank’s app on their own phone or computer. After entering the card details into 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 when your phone is locked, go to “Settings” on your phone.
If you have an iPhone, go to “Notifications”, select “Notifications”, then “Show Previews” and select either “When Unlocked” or “Never”. Android users should select “Lock screen”, “Notifications”, and then select the “Do not show notifications” option.
- Find out more: what to do if your phone is stolen
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 exposed, criminals won’t gain access to all of them.
There are a few things to keep in mind when setting a strong password – for example, it shouldn’t contain any personal information, it should contain special characters, and you shouldn’t let the browser remember it for you. Our guide can explain more about How to create secure passwords.
Keep these points in mind when deciding how to unlock your phone. Choosing a strong password or a PIN that is not easy to guess will help thieves from gaining access to it.
- Find out more: How to spot a scam
3. Protect your device from viruses and cyber attacks
While it’s true that newer cell phones come with built-in security, you need to keep updating your operating system to maintain your level of protection.
You may also consider installing one mobile antivirus app, which can further prevent malware, viruses and fraud by monitoring background activity on your phone to prevent viruses from compromising your personal data. There are free and paid options.
If you’re an iPhone user, try to resist the temptation to “jail-break” your phone, which allows you to install apps that Apple hasn’t approved. While it gives users more freedom over how they use their device – by removing vendor-imposed software restrictions – downloading an insecure or fake app opens you up to the risk of your phone being hacked.
- Find out more: What rights do I have after a data breach?
4. Check that your network is secure
If you need to access your mobile banking when you’re out and about, avoid accessing your bank accounts from public networks – which may not be secure – and make sure you turn off your mobile’s Bluetooth function when it’s not in use. This will stop all unattended 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 finish your banking session.
You can also increase the protection of devices and apps at home by making sure your router’s security is set to prevent others from accessing it – most come with a strong password, so resist the urge to set it to something simpler.
5. Check the bank’s security features
If you think someone has hacked into your account, or if you notice any suspicious transactions, notify your bank 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 do not suspect you are involved or have been negligent. According to the website of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the bank must refund fraudulent payments by the end of the next working day.
If you’re wondering how the provider’s security compares to others, take a look our table ranks banks according to how secure their online and mobile functions are, looking at everything from the login process to account management.
If you have doubts or are not satisfied with the protection your bank offers against mobile banking fraud, you can try changing providers. Our guide reveals best and worst banksas assessed by customers and our experts.
- Find out more: how to switch bank accounts – we outline the process step by step.