There is now an endless number of apps that you might use to transfer money, whether you’re placing a bet at Sugarhouse online PA or using a convenient money management app such as Mint to make the most of your savings. Online shopping and booking apps also require some of your financial details. In fact, any app that is used to process payments can potentially open you up to security risks. So how do you stay safe when making financial transactions using apps?
Not all apps are equal
The first thing to note is that most major apps from legitimate providers are quite safe. Big-name casinos invest heavily in making sure that their sites are secure, and that your details are protected. The same goes for banking, money management and e-commerce apps from large, well-known companies.
However, it’s not always easy to know whether you are using a legitimate app or one that has been deliberately created in order to harvest information or swindle you out of your money. In addition, there are many apps provided by smaller independent companies that may not be quite as secure as those created by bigger and more experienced developers. Although these are created and marketed with the best intentions and are not in any sense a scam, they may still have loopholes or weaknesses that criminals and hackers are able to exploit.
When you search online for a popular app, you will likely get dozens of different results, all of which appear to be the app you are looking for. A closer inspection will reveal that most of these are, in fact, copycat apps, and many will be created with malicious intent. In short, they are attempting to fool you into downloading their app, thinking it is a popular legitimate one so that they can gain access to your personal and financial details.
Always check that the names of the app and the developers are exactly as they should be, not the same but with one letter changed, or a dot where it shouldn’t be, or some other minor but highly significant embellishment or omission. Do the same with the logo: if it seems slightly off, too tightly cropped or blurred and out of focus, go no further.
The best course of action is to go directly to the developer’s website and to navigate from there to their app store. Even major app sites like Apple and Google inadvertently host hundreds of fake apps, despite their best efforts to remove them. In 2017, Google Play Store removed 700,000 malicious apps, but it’s inevitable that many more are still on their site, undetected.
The next thing to do before you download it is to read as many independent reviews of the app as you can, on a number of different, trusted sites. If you can’t find many reviews, then that in itself is a cause for suspicion. Of course, if you read one bad review after another, then you’re going to have second thoughts.
Be wary of apps that ask you to share more information with them than seems necessary for them to fulfill their function. This is especially true of free apps that insist you input your full credit card details. If you share your bank details with a third-party app or provider, then you are leaving yourself open to fraud, identity theft, and other violations. Banks often specifically strongly advise you about this in their terms and conditions, meaning that if you ignore their warning and someone hacks your account, then they may not be legally liable to recompense you.
Look into the encryption methods used by the app and how it secures your data. Major cloud providers take data security incredibly seriously. After all, it is their livelihood, and a data breach will cause their reputation and their business to suffer accordingly. Smaller cloud providers, on the other hand, often don’t have the resources to provide the same level of security and are more vulnerable as a result.
Use a dedicated email address to sign up for the app, one that you don’t use for anything else. Ideally, it should be anonymous, and not contain your actual name or any other information about you, such as the year of your birth. John.Doe1991 is not the best way to begin your email address.
Most legitimate apps are extremely secure, but many others out there are not. It’s up to you to take due care and stay safe both online and off. Take your time, do your research and make sure you know exactly what app you’ve downloaded before sharing any sensitive information.