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Cell Phone Security Tips to Keep Your Financial Information Safe

Your cell phone contains all of your personal information, from your name to sensitive financial data. What are you doing to protect your cell phone security?

Chris Scott

Contributing Writer at Tally

June 3, 2021

If you’re one of the 85% of Americans who own a mobile device, you should be concerned about phone security. Whether you run an Android or iOS operating system, your sensitive data could be at risk. 

As Adi Sharabani, founder of the mobile security company Skycure, told CNBC, "At the end of the day, everything is hackable. What I am surprised about is that people sometimes forget that it's so easy to hack into these devices." 

You need to be particularly concerned about cell phone security if you use your phone for mobile banking. If you have apps for your bank accounts or credit card accounts, your information could be especially at risk. 

Let’s look at nine ways to keep your financial information safe on your phone — whether it’s an iPhone or Android device. 

1. Using a Password Manager

One way to protect your personal information on your mobile phone is to use a password manager. A password manager is an app that safely stores and protects all of your online credentials. Your passwords are encrypted, making it much harder for cybercriminals to steal them and retrieve your personal data. 

With a password manager, your login details are protected behind a master passcode. Some apps also require two-factor authentication, a fingerprint scan, or facial recognition to retrieve your information (more on those options below). 

Another benefit of a password manager is that you only need to remember one master passcode. This could be very helpful if you have multiple logins to remember. 

2. Enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) 

Another way to mitigate security threats is by implementing two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security that ensures you're the only person who can access the account. 

Let's say that you use your username and password to log in to an app. As an extra layer of security, you may be required to scan a fingerprint or use facial recognition to make sure that you're the person actually entering the account.

Other forms of 2FA include receiving a text message (SMS) or email to verify your identity. For instance, you may receive a time-sensitive code in a text or email that you must enter before accessing the account. Again, this prevents someone from logging in fraudulently just by hacking your username and password to the app. 

3. Keeping Your Phone Up to Date 

Apple iPhones run on the iOS operating system, and Android phones run Android software. Apple iPhones use iOS, but many different phones may run the Android operating system, including the:  

  • Google Pixel

  • Samsung Galaxy 

  • OnePlus Pro 

No matter what type of phone you have, it's important that you keep your operating system updated. People tend to postpone or ignore updates. Unfortunately, delaying updates increases your risk of being the victim of a cybersecurity attack. Many updates are security patches to fix bugs in the operating software. 

Furthermore, it's not just your operating system that needs updating to protect your device’s security. You also should routinely update any apps that you've downloaded. The longer you go without doing so, the more likely you are to be hacked. 

4. Putting a Secure Lock on Your Phone 

It's easier than not to leave your phone unlocked. However, leaving your phone unlocked also means you're leaving it at risk. 

If you were to lose your phone and did not have a lock screen enabled, you could immediately open yourself up to identity theft. Whoever finds the phone would be able to instantly access your personal information, likely including your: 

  • Name

  • Address

  • Phone number

  • Family member's contact information 

  • Email 

  • Financial information 

  • Social media pages 

You should, at the very least, put a passcode on the phone. The passcode should be four digits at a minimum. As mentioned previously, you can also set something more personal, such as a fingerprint scanner or facial recognition technology, to further protect your phone. These are not something that a hacker could easily steal or replicate. 

Also, be sure to put passwords on your mobile apps as well. You can do this through your password manager. As an extra layer of security, try to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. 

5. Protecting Your Phone in Case You Lose It

Your phone should have a Find My iPhone or Find My Device feature. If you lose your phone, this feature will make it ring to help you locate it. If the phone’s GPS is on, you can track the device on a map as well. 

This feature also allows you to wipe your phone clean remotely if it’s lost for good. If you know your phone is gone or in the hands of a hacker, you can delete all of the data on your phone so that your information remains secure. There may also be settings that prompt the phone to automatically wipe clean after an incorrect password has been entered ten times. 

6. Avoiding Free Public Wi-Fi Networks or Use a VPN 

If you've ever gone to a hotel for vacation or a local coffee shop, you may have connected your phone or iPad to the local Wi-Fi. It seems simple and straightforward enough, and doing so prevents you from eating up your phone data. 

However, you should be especially wary of public Wi-Fi. These networks offer little to no security, making them a prime target for cyberattacks and data breaches. 

When possible, remain connected to your phone's private data plan. You can also purchase a hotspot, which creates a secure internet connection for you. 

If you don't have data to use, consider instead using an app to create a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates an encrypted connection making it difficult for cyber attackers to view or access your network traffic. 

7. Forgetting to Turn Off Bluetooth 

Perhaps you use a pair of Bluetooth headphones. You put the headphones away when you are done using them, but you don't turn the Bluetooth off, leaving it on while you’re not using it. 

If you leave your Bluetooth on, someone could connect to your device and begin stealing your information. An open Bluetooth network is very similar to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. However, sometimes you need to leave your Bluetooth on for functionality purposes, such as connecting to a smartwatch. 

8. Keeping an Eye Out for Phishing Emails and Text Messages 

Phishing emails and text messages are two favorite tools for hackers. A phishing scam is one in which a cyberattacker sends an email or text intended to trick you into providing sensitive information or downloading malware or spyware on your device. 

These messages may appear legitimate and often prompt you to click a link, download the file, or enter sensitive information like your name, birthday, or passwords. 

Avoid clicking on any link or message unless it came from a trusted sender. If you're unsure, contact the person who sent the email to find out if it's legitimate — especially if you’re being asked to provide personal or account information. You can also install antivirus software on your phone to help catch any malware or spyware on your device. 

9. Only Downloading Apps from Trusted App Stores 

The most important thing is that you know where your apps came from and t don't download any from malicious websites. 

You can download Android Apps in the Google Play store. This store is meant specifically for Android apps, though your phone manufacturer may offer their own app store. 

The Apple Store tends to vet its apps better, so Android users should be more mindful of malicious apps. The best bet for Android users is to stick with known, trusted apps from the Google Play store. 

Taking Steps to Protect Your Cell Phone Security 

If you own a cell phone, you should be aware of mobile threats. Otherwise, you could expose your financial information and put yourself at risk of identity theft. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to protect your phone’s security. 

These include simple steps such as enabling a lock screen, using a password manager, and using only secure internet connections. The more you remain vigilant about your cell phone security, the more likely you are to keep your information safe. 

And remember, protecting your finances doesn’t stop with your cell phone security. You should also aim to practice good financial habits. Tally is a credit card payoff app that can help pay down your credit card balances and get you out of debt faster.