If you've ever lost your mobile phone, even for a minute, you know the sense of panic you experience from the moment you reach for it and realize it's missing until the moment it turns up and it's back in your hands. Aside from the huge inconvenience of losing all your contacts (and the sheer creepiness of knowing that a random stranger might be viewing your photos and text messages), if it's a smartphone, it might even contain sensitive information that could compromise your financial security.
In the last quarter of 2010, nearly 30 million Americans used their smartphones or tablet computers to access a bank, credit card or brokerage account, and that number is expected to grow to at least 50 million by 2015 [sources: comScore; Urban]. Consumers are increasingly drawn to the convenience of mobile banking, and use banking apps, mobile browsers or text messages for everything from transferring funds and completing stock transactions to checking their account balances or depositing checks. Mobile banking also offers the promise of immediacy, and can send alerts if your account balance drops below a certain threshold or if suspicious charges post to your account. These real-time updates can help you avoid overdraft fees and react quickly to fraudulent activity, but do the benefits of on-the-go access outweigh the risks?
In a 2010 survey of mobile customers, 33 percent of smartphone users cited security concerns as the primary reason they avoid using their phones to access financial accounts [source: comScore]. Is their reluctance justified? What can banks do to ensure the security of online banking apps, and how do you know if your banking app is secure? Read on to find out.