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How do hackers steal bank account information? And what should you do if your data is stolen? We dig into some of the recent FBI findings to help you protect your money.

Whenever there’s a reason for fear, or when there’s upheaval, there’s a good chance that someone out there will try to take advantage of the situation.

One example is the rise in cybersecurity threats against mobile banking apps. The FBI recently warned that the coronavirus pandemic is leading to more people using banking apps rather than going into branches — and this could be fodder for scammers and hackers.

Here’s what you need to know about the possibility of your mobile app being hacked.


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How Hackers Access Your Bank App

There are two main possibilities when it comes to stealing your banking information via your bank app:

  1. Trojan: This is malicious code on your actual device that you might pick up when you download another app, such as a game or tool. When you open your banking app, the malicious code creates a fake login page for the bank app and steals your information. Now the fraudster has access to your bank account.
  2. Fake mobile banking app: Another concern is that some cybercriminals create fake apps. You download what you think is your bank’s app, but it’s a fake — and steals your information.

There’s another possibility where a hacker doesn’t try to fake a mobile banking app or put malicious code on your device – it’s when you use public WiFi. When your device is connected to the internet, some apps might run in the background, sending data along with it. Even if you aren’t using your banking app, this could give hackers the ability to see frequently used usernames or other sensitive information. And, if you use a WiFi network that has been hacked, the fraudsters can send traffic to fake sites instead of real ones, leading you to the same problems listed above.

In all these cases, your sensitive information is taken and used against you. You could see your bank account attacked and end up with problems in the long run. Even if you eventually get your money back, the hassle involved and other associated problems are no small matter.

Related: Best Mobile Banking Apps

What to Do If Your Bank App is Hacked

If you realize that your bank app has been hacked, it’s important to take action immediately. Call your financial institution and let them know that fraudulent actions are being taken in your account. You have 60 days to notify your bank if you don’t want to be held liable for 100% of the fraudulent activity. This is why it makes sense to track your accounts and pay attention to what’s happening with them. You’ll catch problems quickly and be able to resolve them with minimum liability.

You might end up having to close your old account and open a new one. This can be inconvenient since you might need to change automatic transactions and bill pay. However, if your bank app is hacked and fraudsters have access to the old account information, you need to move forward.

Check your phone for malware. If your bank app is hacked, there’s a good chance your smartphone is infected.  Remember, your phone is a computer. You might need to wipe everything and start all over again. Back up important items, like contacts and pictures, before you proceed.

Next, you need to beef up the security on your bank account. The most important thing to do is to change your password. Review your other passwords as well. Make sure you have different passwords for different accounts and make sure they aren’t connected to your life or publicly available information. When you clamp down, you’re less likely to be hacked a second time.

Related: Is Online Banking Safe? 

How to Reduce the Chances of Having Your Bank App Hacked

There are some actions you can take to reduce the chances that your bank app will be hacked. Carefully consider how you use your phone and you’ll likely be safer in the long run.

Get a VPN

You deserve to be safe and secure on the internet.

ExpressVPN is a virtual private network service that encrypts your web traffic and masks your IP address so that you can browse the internet with peace of mind. Choose from 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries all over the world.

Real humans are available 24/7 to help you with setup and troubleshooting. Get ultra-fast speeds for better video quality. Your data is protected by AES-256, the standard trusted by security experts.

With their innovative TrustedServer technology, no data is ever written to a hard drive – even when it’s being encrypted! So install ExpressVPN on all your devices, and connect five at once.

NordVPN is another virtual private network service that encrypts your web traffic, hides your IP address, and provides other advanced security features for stress-free internet use.

NordVPN is best known for being reliable, super-fast, and affordable (starting at $3.71/month). On top of this, security features include a dedicated IP, no-log policy, and split tunneling support.

With 24/7 support, you have access to experts who are ready to answer your questions and address any concerns.

Download Your Bank App from a Trusted Source

Before downloading a banking app, make sure you’re getting it from a trusted source. Most banks have their apps available in official stores. Get the app from the Google Play Store or from the Apple App Store.

Next, make sure that you’re getting the right app. Fraudsters can spoof an app for a short period of time before getting caught. You can open the browser on your phone and go to the official page for your bank. From there, most banks have a place where you can go directly to the download. This reduces the chances that you’ll download a fake app.

Financial apps like CIT and Chime make it a point to have links to their apps readily available on their websites so you can go straight to the right app and be confident that you’re getting the real thing.

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Avoid Public WiFi when Using Your Banking App

It’s much harder for hackers to access your information when you’re using your cellular data or a private WiFi network. While public WiFi can be helpful when it comes to saving your phone’s data plan, it leaves you vulnerable to hackers.

Whenever you need to access something sensitive or need to enter sensitive information, don’t use a public WiFi network. Yes, hackers can get into anything given enough time and incentive but there’s no reason to make it easier for them. In many cases, they just hang out on public WiFi waiting to steal information.

Create Strong Passwords

Many people choose passwords that are easy to remember and connected to their real lives. This makes it easier for hackers to crack. Create strong passwords that are unrelated to your life. You can use tools like LastPass or 1Password to create and store strong passwords on your behalf.

While you’re at it, it’s important not to store passwords and PINs on your phone. It might be tempting to keep a list in your notes or some other place, but that can give hackers and fraudsters everything they need if they get into your phone. Create strong passwords and keep them away from an easily accessible place.

Protect Your Phone

Another way to reduce the chances that your bank app will be hacked is to protect your phone with a passcode. Additionally, you might be able to use Face ID or a fingerprint scan to access your phone and reduce the chances that others can get it. Some banking apps have their own measures. For example, you might also need your fingerprint or Face ID each time you access your banking app — on top of needing to get into your phone in the first place. This added layer of protection can go a long way toward keeping your data safe and keeping you from getting hacked.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

In addition to using a strong password, two-factor authentication can be a big help when it comes to accessing your bank account. You might think that it’s a little cumbersome to use two-factor authentication, but it can be a big deterrent for hackers. That extra step to confirm your identity can go a long way toward protecting your account. And while this is a great step to take, remember it’s not foolproof either.

Update Your Phone

Outdated software is easier to hack than updated software. Plus, banking apps and other apps are always updating security fixes and making improvements. If you update your phone and apps regularly, you’re more likely to have the latest security patches and other benefits. Keep your phone updated to better protect yourself from hackers.

Bottom Line

Even though the coronavirus pandemic may be providing increased opportunities for hackers as more people download banking apps, you don’t have to be a statistic. Be aware of the possibility that your banking app might be hacked and keep an eye on your account. Take steps to protect your account and your phone, and you’ll be less likely to be a victim of these types of scams.

Want to know more? Here’s that FBI announcement about cyber actors trying to exploit mobile banking apps. And here’s more on why two-step verification isn’t always enough.

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Author Bio

Total Articles: 54
Miranda Marquit is a nationally-recognized financial writer and money expert. She has contributed to NPR, Marketwatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, FOX Business, The Hill and numerous other publications. Miranda is an avid podcaster and writes about money and freelancing at her website, MirandaMarquit.com. She lives in Idaho and loves reading, board games, travel, the outdoors and spending time with her son.