Banking: The evolution 

Over the last 20 years we have seen a significant step change in the way we conduct our banking affairs. With a lot of local bank branches closing down, the cheque becoming an antique and everything moving to digital platforms, banking will never be the same again. Even the concept of carrying cash is slowly becoming redundant, with people preferring to transfer online rather than hand over physical cash. It’s quite incredible how much banking has evolved and with this evolution comes greater security risks. Therefore, we thought we would explore exactly what has changed and how you can keep cyber safe.

Is cash no longer king?

Do you remember when contactless cards came to the UK back in 2007? People were slow to embrace this new technology, but you could only use contactless cards in a small number of coffee shops and cafes. New figures from the British Retail Consortium show that contactless card payments now account for about a third of all card purchases! This has increased by 10% from October 2015.

So why the increase in popularity? This may be down to convenience as it’s a lot quicker to ‘flash the plastic’ than exchange cash and wait for the change. This increase in popularity is highlighted by the fact that more than two-thirds of staffed payment terminals in shops now accept contactless cards, compared to less than half a year ago.

There are now 108 million contactless cards in issue in the UK, so what’s next for contactless card payments? The Church of England is currently trialling having electronic collection plates in around 40 churches in the UK, giving people the opportunity to contribute towards the church if they are not carrying cash!

However the Bank of England is adamant that cash really is still alive and kicking, saying that during Christmas 2016 the value of notes in circulation peaked at more than £70bn. So, hold onto those notes for now, as they are not going anywhere!

Is banking on your mobile phone safe?

By banking through an app on your mobile phone, it gives you instant access to your account details, however, this does mean that your details are potentially available to anyone who accesses your phone.

There have been cases in the press recently where banking apps have been hacked into or been effected by viruses. If you do use your mobile phone to complete banking regularly, then it’s worth investing in an antivirus software to add another level of protection. These software packages are readily available and work by monitoring background activity and stopping viruses accessing your personal data. Some banks actually provide their own software that you can download free of charge, so it’s worth looking directly on your banks website to see If you can take advantage of this.

Before committing to mobile banking, make sure you double check your banks policy regarding mobile fraud. You need to be confident that you will be fully compensated in the event you unfortunately fall victim to fraud. If you cannot find your banks policy on their website, then it’s advisable to give them a call before downloading the app and committing to mobile banking. If for some reason your bank does not offer any protection, and you most definitely want to bank via your mobile phone, then you can always look to switch your account to a different provider.

Many people question whether banking via a mobile app is really worth it. Do the apps have the same functionality as banking websites? Well, each app will be slightly different, but on the whole the standard applications allow you to:

  • View account balances
  • View mini statements
  • Transfer money between your own accounts
  • Some mobile apps allow you to transfer money to existing recipients that you have previously set up

However, if you want to set up payment to a new recipient, you will most probably have to log onto the website to authorise it.

Social media and banking

I am sure most of us have a social media account of some form or another that we use to talk to friends or family, but have you ever paid a friend via social media? Facebook has launched its new messenger payment service, with the UK being the first country outside of the US to trail the technology.

The app was launched in the US in 2015 and is very popular, with a lot of people using the app to split restaurant bills, pay babysitters and simply settle bills. Facebook say that the average spend is less than £38. Facebook have targeted the UK to launch the product due to a nation ‘mobile savvy’ consumers.

So what does this actually mean? Facebook have decided that people are looking for simplicity and therefore think Facebook Messenger is the perfect place for people to be able to pay their friends whilst talking about who owes who what. Facebook have collaborated with all major banks and credit cards in order to facilitate this service. However, in order to use this service, both the user and the recipient will need to register their payment cards.

Facebook have taken this one step further and announced that the app will recognise when you are talking about money or payment and suggest the new service and a quick and easy solution. To be honest this sounds quite annoying, would you respond well to being nudged? The good news is that in order to use this service, you will need to download a separate app. So don’t worry, you can continue to use your current Facebook Messenger without being hassled.

How can you stay safe online?

Whilst we don’t profess to be cyber safety experts, we do have some advice you can follow to ensure you are as safe as possible:

Update privacy settings:

Make sure if you are using any social media platforms to make payments, you double check all privacy controls. It’s your responsibility to make sure you adjust your settings to provide the level of privacy you require.

Beware of phishing

Never, ever open an email that you don’t recognise the sender’s details. The main reason to avoid these emails is because malicious code could end up on your computer, or even worse, you could be taken to a phishing site that could take all your usernames and passwords.

Be creative with your passwords

Try to have different passwords for different websites, it’s not ideal to have one password for every account you own. If you think you can only remember the one password, try adding different capitalisations and numbers to ensure they are different. Don’t use real answers to security questions as hackers can find out personal information about you and potentially answer them.

Opt out

All websites have an obligation to request you to opt in if they want to share any of your information or communicate with you. It’s worth making sure you read this disclaimer properly as you don’t want to opt into your information being given to a third party.

Lock your smartphone

Always make sure you have a security code on your mobile phone to ensure that if it does get lost, no one can access it.

Never give out your details

Even if someone who says they are from your bank call asking you to verify personal details, never give any of your personal information out over the phone.

Delete unwanted messages

Make sure that you delete old messages you receive from your bank. Don’t leave anything on your phone that could potentially give people access to your personal details.

Clear your cache

On a regular basis ensure that you clear your cache so that your internet browser does not automatically remember passwords. Whenever you sign up to a new website or purchase anything online, always select to not remember your user name and password.

Download mindfully

If you decide that you do want to use an app to do your banking, make sure you only download applications directly from your bank. These will always be free to download and will not be software dependant. Once you’ve downloaded the app, do some research on your banks website to see whether or not they have any security software you can download to increase your protection.

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