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Home / Money / Personal Finance /  What new users of banking apps should know to stay safe

With the covid-19 pandemic disrupting in-branch banking, banks’ apps have seen a surge of new users. A case in point is the State Bank of India’s (SBI) Yono mobile app, which has reportedly been adding 70,000 new users every day.

According to the bank’s chairman Rajnish Kumar, the total number of registered Yono users has hit 27 million. On 5 March, the bank had said that the number of app users stood at 20 million. Kumar said that owing to covid-19, the rate at which new users are being added on Yono has increased.

But as more and more first-time app users come on board, the chances of fraud also climb. Here are a few things new users should keep in mind to avoid being defrauded.

Trusted downloads only

The first step of the process is to download the app, but while this sounds simple enough, there’s a chance that you could get this wrong.

“Not all apps found on Play Store or App Store are legitimate. Before downloading any app, go through reviews and do your research on the developer. Register for SMS banking so that you get updates on all your banking transactions. This helps report fraudulent transactions quickly," said C S Sudheer, founder and CEO of IamCheated.com, a site that registers and addresses consumer complaints for online fraud.

Alternatively, you can download the app directly from your bank’s registered portal.

SBI’s guidelines about safely using the app also state: “Be aware of downloading any malicious application from mobile application stores (Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Blackberry App World, Ovi Store, Windows Marketplace, etc.) that are offering online banking."

If you do choose to download from an app store, you can check the authenticity of the app by contacting a bank representative and verifying the exact name and specifications of the app. If you don’t, you run the risk of downloading a fake banking app that will capture your data, or even sideload phishing apps and malware that will be downloaded and hidden on your device.

Secure your bases

While it’s hard to stay ahead of all the new methods that fraudsters adapt, you do have control over certain aspects of app-based banking that can help you secure your account and transactions.

Start by setting a strong password. “Ensure you have thought about a proper password that isn’t predictable by fraudsters and isn’t similar to the date of birth or names of family members," said Rajesh Mirjankar, MD and CEO, Infrasoft Technologies.

He added that while it was not advisable to write down your password, if you do need to note down any additional sensitive details, you should keep them in a password-protected file. It is also advisable to change your internet banking passwords periodically, even if your bank doesn’t prompt you to do so.

Most banks offer two-factor authentication for app-based transactions, which adds an extra layer of security. But try to ensure that both are not easily accessible if one is compromised. For instance, if you use the bank’s mobile app on your phone and the OTP for verification is also sent to your phone, it might be easier from malware or a hacker to intercept both factors and transact on your behalf.

If you have predictable spending, you can also set a reasonable cap on your daily transaction limit to ensure that even if your account is compromised, the damage is limited. Also remember to activate notifications for all your transactions, so that you can track any suspicious activity on your account.

Use safe connections and devices

One huge risk you can avoid altogether is using public or unreliable internet connections. For instance, using that free airport wi-fi to pay a bill before you board is very convenient, but can open up your device to malicious users. The same applies to cyber cafes and shared computers.

To improve the security of your own device and network, make sure you have the newest version of the operating system with the latest security patches built in. Have your firewall enabled and effective antivirus software installed. Run periodic checks with the help of your antivirus or malware detector to ensure that there are no covert virus or trojan software on your device.

Internet banking apps are designed to be secure and user friendly, but if you don’t know what you are doing, you might find yourself falling victim to a fraud.

Also keep in mind that once you have logged into the internet banking portal or app, you will not be required to enter your password again or be asked to provide your account details or card pin. Your bank is not going to ask you for these details under any circumstances, so make sure not to divulge them to anyone posing as a bank representative or on a suspicious app.

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