OSB Professional Liability Fund

Mobile Banking: Take Advantage and Tread Lightly

February 10, 2021
by Rachel Edwards

Financial industry leaders expect that many people, both consumers and business owners alike, will continue to favor mobile banking options over traditional banking post-COVID. While mobile banking has been gaining popularity in recent years, it became more of a necessity since the pandemic began and banks were forced to close or limit in-person services. Take some time to learn the mobile options offered by your bank so you can make optimal use of their features. Not surprisingly, the increase in mobile banking has resulted in more fraudulent activity, so implementing proper security measures is important. Below are some common mobile banking features and some considerations to keep in mind when using these services:

Mobile vs. Remote deposits

  • Mobile deposits. Many banks now offer an application that allows for depositing checks using a mobile device by taking a picture of the front and back of the check. While this can be a helpful tool, a bank employee must review the mobile deposit before the transaction can be processed, and banks usually place a cap on the amount you can deposit per transaction. Also, technical issues may occur if the application is unable to decipher certain information on the check.
  • Remote deposits. Another option offered by some banks is remote deposits, which is the use of a dedicated check scanner provided by the bank to business owners to scan and deposit their checks remotely. Remote deposits have fewer restrictions than mobile deposits and essentially allow the business owner to become the banker. You may consider taking advantage of remote deposits if mobile deposits don’t meet your needs.

Paperless Records

Banks now provide the option to receive only paperless statements. However, you still need to keep adequate documentation of your own banking records. In particular, be sure to maintain complete records of trust account funds for five years after termination of representation. ORPC 1.15-1(a). Don’t rely on your bank to maintain your records, as they often delete them from their system after a certain period of time. Develop an organized and secure filing system for saving paperless banking records.

Security

Consider implementing certain security measures when using mobile banking options, such as the following:
  • Secure the device(s). Whether you are using your computer or a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone, implement proper security measures on those devices to lessen the chances of becoming a victim of fraudulent activity. See PLF Practice Management Attorney Hong Dao’s article for helpful information about securing your devices before engaging in mobile banking.
  • Download the banking application from a trusted source. The FBI issued a warning in 2020 that hackers were duplicating banking applications to create a false version routing you to an illegitimate site. The best approach is to download the application directly from the bank’s website. You can also follow the link on the bank’s website to an official application store, such as the Apple Store for Apple devices or the Google store for Android devices. Unfortunately, though, even official application stores can unknowingly harbor malicious applications that cleared the vetting process, so downloading the application directly from the bank’s website is the better option. When visiting the bank’s website, be sure you are connecting to the bank’s actual website and not a fake website, sometimes found when clicking on links in phishing emails or pop-up advertisements.
  • Don’t use public WiFi for banking. Always connect through a secure internet connection. See my blog post and our CLE for more information about working remotely.
  • Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Be sure to use strong passwords when logging into your bank’s application. Also, take advantage of two-factor authentication if offered by your bank, which requires you to provide an additional code or answer a security question after entering your username and password.
  • Consider biometric authentication. Some banks allow you to sign in to their mobile application using your fingerprint rather than a username and password. You must have an Apple or Android finger-enabled device, and you have to set up your biometric authentication using the fingerprint already stored in your device. Some banks such as Wells Fargo are now offering sign-in using facial recognition as well.
  • Sign up for alerts. Many banks send alerts via email and/or text when some or all transactions are processed. If you don’t want to receive an alert for every single transaction, you can choose which alerts you want to receive ─ for example, for transactions over a certain dollar amount, or when particular transactions are completed. Other options include receiving alerts when an unrecognized device signs in to your account using your User ID, or unusual account activity such as a purchase made in a new location. You may also opt to receive a regular reminder to change your password.

Money Management

Some banking applications include assistance with budgeting, such as placing an identifying tag on each transaction (e.g., categories of expenses) and then gathering and reporting that information each month for use in cash flow analysis.

Conclusion

Mobile banking has been and will continue to be a useful, convenient, and efficient option both personally and professionally, and the technology and features will continue to evolve and improve. While taking advantage of these services, be sure to tailor the offerings to your needs and understand current threats so you can implement proper security protocols. While you’re reviewing your mobile banking options, it’s also a good time to take stock of your finances and trust account. Check out these PLF resources on Financial Management and Trust Accounting:
www.osbplf.org > Practice Management > Forms > Category > Financial Management
www.osbplf.org > Practice Management > Forms > Category > Trust Accounting