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What to Know About Mobile Banking and Financial Apps

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mobile banking is becoming more popular. New financial apps promise to make life easier by consolidating your accounts. Before you share your information with any financial app, do your homework. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015)

    If you have a mobile phone, chances are you use it to check your bank account or pay bills and there are new apps that do everything from budgeting to taxes.

    But some say be careful which apps you use.

    Kasia Konopka is a busy graphic designer who uses the financial app Mint.

    "I needed something that would work for me just that would combine all of my bank accounts and credit cards," said Konopka.

    She says Mint makes life a lot easier by being able to budget and keep track of all her accounts in one place, on her phone.

    Mint is made by the same entity that created Turbo Tax and Quicken.

    "It helps me see whenever there was a transaction on my credit card," said Konopka. "I can immediately see how much money I spent."

    Konopka's not alone. The Federal Reserve says 52 percent of smartphone users use mobile banking. More are starting to trying new apps to help them budget and track their money. Apps like Mint, Acorns and Digit put security out front and center on their websites. (There are full statements from each of the companies at the bottom of this page.)

    "Most of the major players in that space are in fact very diligent," said Professor Amit Basu with the SMU Cox School of Business, when it comes to security.

    But some major banks are warning customers about plugging your banking information into another company's app.

    "If you're giving them your Chase.com user ID and password, you could be responsible for money you might lose," according to the company's website.

    On Capitol One's website, it reads, "If you choose to share account access information with a third-party, Capital One is not liable."

    Bank of America's site advises, "You should use caution."

    Basu said they've got a point.

    "If I were to give you my account and password to my bank account and you went into my bank account and you took out a bunch of money it's kind of hard me to argue that I've been ripped off," said Basu.

    Still, federal law said if someone uses your credit card you are only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges. For debit cards, it's $50 to $500 depending on when you report it.

    "If a stranger opens up a credit card in your name and incurs debt, as a matter of general contract law there is no agreement between you and the credit card company and you certainly don't owe it," said the National Consumer Law Center's Associate Director and Managing Attorney Lauren Saunders. "It wouldn't matter how they got your info."

    Konopka said she carefully checked the security on her app before she started using it.

    "The concern still is there," Konopka said. "But the convenience factor is just so huge."

    Basu said read an app's security and privacy information carefully. Look for security company signs like TRUSTe, Verisign, Entrust and McAfee.

    The American Bankers Association said also look for apps that have two step verification, where you would enter your online ID and password, but then also answer a question or input a special code. The ABA also said make sure all information in encrypted, whether it's being sent, and also while it's being stored. Finally, they suggest, don't go hog wild. The more apps you share your information with, the more potential there is for problems.

    Security Info From Three Financial Apps

    Acorns:

    "To ensure customer security we use best-of-breed security features and bank-level security, and we undergo regular security evaluations by third party providers. Our business is overseen by multiple organizations including the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Institution Regulatory Administrations (FINRA). All customer data is tokenized, salted, and hashed using leading encryption protocols. As part of its regulatory oversight, Acorns maintains a business continuity and disaster recovery plan which is meant to ensure that customer data always maintains its integrity through multiple, geographically distributed backups.
    We ensure that every individual’s account is protected against fraud and liquidation up to $500,000 by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)."

    Digit:

    "Here is a link with more information on our security.
    In short, Digit accounts have state-of-the-art 256-bit bank level security and are FDIC-insured up to a balance of $250,000. Customer information is anonymized, encrypted, and securely stored. Personal banking information is not stored anywhere."

    Mint:

    "You can read more here for more details on safety and security with Mint and that link includes smart tips for keeping your information safe anywhere online. At Mint, security of our customers’ data is paramount. Bank-level encryption, multi-tiered architecture designed with industry best security practices, and strong physical security are just some of the measures in place with Mint. Mint is a read-only service and can’t move money into or out of any account. Plus, because Mint does not require any personally identifiable information, such as social security number, using Mint cannot lead to identity theft. Mint customers can use Mint to monitor the use of credit cards and may help them identify fraudulent use quickly so they can report it to their credit card issuer quickly."

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