Using your bank’s app should be a baseline best practice for consumers. Assuming you want to do as much as you can to protect your funds, you should be on the lookout for any way that you can be on guard against fraudsters.
I say this from personal experience. Last week I noticed that someone was using my account to go on a spree of Uber rides. In 36 hours, the person employed my card to go on four trips with a net cost of $256. My bank didn’t alert me to the problem, so if I was relying on my review of my paper statement, then the number of rides could have blossomed, and the sum of dollars would easily have been in the thousands of dollars. However, I had the app – so as I flipped through my accounts from the convenience of my phone – I spotted the problem.
Once a person contacts the bank to report suspicious charges, his or her consumer protections go into effect. The bank must remove the charges from your account while reviewing the flagged transactions. The financial institution has up to 45 days to do its inspection. During the period of review, the bank can wait no longer than ten days before it restores the disputed funds. A consumer’s protections differ by type of account: credit card accounts provide greater security than debit cards. Card networks like VISA and MasterCard add additional levels of protection for transactions that occurred across their systems.
Because of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, consumers get immediate relief. There are certain exceptions to rules within the EFTA, but short of providing expert legal analysis, those are the highlights. With the convenience that comes with using an app, their ability to benefit from those protections is made that much easier.
Using my app made it convenient to respond, even though it wasn’t a convenient time. I discovered the results while resting on a second-floor porch with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. I didn’t have access to a paper statement. Indeed, I had asked the USPS to hold my mail while I was on vacation. I had instead chosen to rely on my review of my paper statement the damage would have been substantially worse.
Barriers are falling because apps empower a customer to monitor their account. Unless account actively triggered a bank’s security algorithms, consumers had to work harder to spot fraud. While a person could see those transactions via online review of recent account activity, in practice that is easier said than done. Your phone travels with you all day – not so with your desktop computer. These days, people spend far less time on browsers these days, and when they do, it is often during a time when they are not allowed to review their private accounts. A system that relies on consumers to sign on to their online account while at work automatically narrows the population to people who work at a desk, who have access to external websites, and who have the liberty to play “hooky” while on the job.
By comparison, account holders run up against more difficulties when they attempt to spot fraud with a paper statement. First and foremost, paper statements arrive once a month, so the lag between account compromise and mail delivery can be substantial. My Uber rider would have had several weeks of travel before I would have noticed – assuming that I opened my statement as soon as it arrived in the mail.
Sidebar: Uber Accounts are Valuable to Scammers
I found some interesting data on the value of accounts. Scammers pay for log-in details, and it turns out that certain services generate higher fees. An Uber account is one of the most valuable:
- Netflix account: 76 cents
- PayPal account with a balance: $6.43
- Facebook: $3.02
- Credit card: 22 cents
- Uber: up to $4
I think that the fact that credit cards log-ins are only worth 22 cents speaks to the success of EFTA protections.
App-based banking comes with additional security safeguards. I have to authenticate when I sign-in to my phone, again when I download an app, and once more when I want to open my app.
It’s also the case that it has never been more critical to have a robust defense in place. At the end of last year, Equifax gave away important personal data of 143 million Americans. If you are like me, then you will spend the rest of your life using a social security number that has been captured by people with malice in mind. They probably have my date of birth, my address, and even my driver’s license number. Thanks, Equifax!
Some of the accounts offered by WiseWage require consumers to download their app as part of the account sign-up process. In my opinion, that is a good thing. Everyone should have an app at his or her disposal.
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