Banking by Cell Phone - Is It Safe?

October 2, 2009
Michael Sheehan

More than three million people used their cell phones to do their banking last year, but is it truly safe?

There’s hardly anything you can’t do with a cell phone nowadays. Take pictures, plan travel routes, do routine banking chores — you can do it all on your cell phone. In fact, you can do just about any banking task with your cell phone -- check bank balances, pay bills, or transfer funds -- that you can do on your laptop or desktop computer at home. But is it safe to have personal financial information traveling the airwaves between the bank and your cell phone?

Mobile banking is here to stay — more than 3 million people used their cell phones to do their banking last year, more than 10 times as many as the year before. Still, the security of financial transactions is the top worry for potential bank-by-cell-phone customers. Most industry experts, however, believe that banking by cell phone is no more risky than using your home computer because of the extensive security measures that banks and other financial institutions have put in place. In addition, if you do fall victim to mobile banking fraud, most banks and credit card companies will make you whole if you report the problem within a specified period of time, usually 60 days.

That doesn’t mean that you should abandon common-sense anti-fraud tactics, however. You should be wary of any messages that ask for account numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information, even if they seem to come from your bank. Other tips: Lock your cell phone so that you need a password to power it up; don’t save passwords, account numbers, and similar information on the cell phone; and, if you lose your phone, report it immediately to your bank and your cell phone service provider.