Reduce the risks of mobile money

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Recent changes in technology and the push for wider use of plastic money will make our lives much easier and better, especially with respect to using these financial technologies in our day-to-day commerce.

BY Clive Mphambela

Money-saved

However, the increasing usage of cards and Internet-based e-commerce systems also open-up new frontiers of challenges for consumers and banks.

Such fraud is continuing and presents danger that can catch anyone unawares. Customers must understand that the security of their bank account is placed at great risk each time one purchases goods via the Internet on insecure websites using their debit or credit card credentials.

Scamsters and tricksters continue to invent new and sophisticated ways of taking away other people’s hard-earned money. There are hazards and risks that come along with new technology.

Luckily for the banking customer, these modern payment channels have many inbuilt safeguards to help customers to transact securely over the internet or via point of sale terminals.

However, tricksters will try exploit loopholes and other clever scams to get customer credentials. Security breaches thus can occur, usually after clients are unwittingly tricked into divulging certain information about their credentials to criminal.

It is, therefore, important that this week, we share a few easy tips on how to avoid being scammed in this modern world of e commerce and plastic money.

Some tips to avoid mobile (m-commerce) scams

Do not follow links sent to you via e-mail
You should never follow a banking link sent to you in a text message on your phone or device or via e-mail. These links could potentially lead you to “spoofed” or fake web-sites. Entering your information into such a site usually means you will just have handed over your secret data to thieves. Good practice requires you to navigate to a bank website directly by entering your bank’s web address into your phone browser and bookmarking it. This will help you avoid bogus websites.

However, when you do this also make sure your passwords are not saved on the browser, in case your phone or computer device is stolen.

Avoid doing banking while on public networks
Many mobile devices allow you to connect to different types of networks, including open Wi-fi networks. Always make sure you are not connected to a shared public network before logging onto your account. Most public connections are not very secure and some places that offer public Wi-fi hotspots will warn users not to share sensitive information over these networks.

It is recommended to use your official bank’s application interface (APP) wherever possible. In general, these apps tend to be more secure than sending information by SMS message or e-mail. Most banks go to great lengths to make sure any information sent across a network using their application is encrypted to a high level.

Be careful of what you download from the Internet
Be careful when downloading unknown apps. Take precautions when updating your banks app. Do a little research before you download that next widget or game onto your phone, ipad or laptop to make sure the app developer has a good reputation. Using stolen phones or “jailbroken” smartphones or using “sideloaded” software on your phone could leave your data exposed.

Keep track of your mobile device
The reason why mobile banking is becoming so popular is because mobile devices are easy to carry around everywhere we go. But this also poses a big risk if you happen to lose it or if it gets stolen. The device can contain everything from passwords to contact lists to your calendar appointments.

Such information can be dangerous if your mobile device falls into the wrong hands.

If your device has a digital locking mechanism, you should use it. Some devices require you to trace a pattern or insert a personal identification number (Pin). While it might slow you down to have to enter a Pin each time you want to use your phone, that layer of security might be enough to keep a thief from accessing your bank account before you can report your phone as missing.

Most phones can be traced when lost if you have activated a tracker on your phone.

Sign up for mobile alerts
Mobile alerts enable the bank to notify you via SMS or short email message whenever a transaction has gone through your account.

It is advisable to register and make use of mobile banking alerts as they offer the following advantages:
1. You know when transactions and direct deposits or withdrawals are posted to your account
2. You know about changes to your account
3. You know about irregular activity on your account as soon as it happens

Next week we continue with more e-commerce tips and also specifically discuss issues to do with plastic cards and card security.

In the meantime, we would encourage all members of the banking public to seek the advice of their bankers, whenever they are unsure about a certain transaction or service that uses technology.

Clive Mphambela is a Banker. He writes in his capacity as Advocacy Officer for the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe. BAZ expressly invites stakeholders to give their valuable comments and feedback related to this article to him on clive@baz.org.zw or on numbers 04-744686, 0772206913