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More online banking scams coming, FBI says – protect yourself now

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, scams targeting banks and financial institutions have been on the rise. Registered domains associated with phishing campaigns increased by 30% throughout April, and authorities are noticing new attack patterns are starting to get much more aggressive.

Pretty soon, if you make the mistake of opening the wrong email or attachment, you might need to start scanning your computer to prevent a malware infection from targeting your bank. Tap or click here to see the best online virus scanners for your computer.

The threat has gotten dangerous enough, in fact, that the FBI is now stepping in to warn consumers about the dangers they face from banking scams on the web. We’ll show you what to look out for, as well as what the FBI says are the best ways to stay safe online.

FBI foretells fraud free-for-all

A new bulletin posted by the FBI’s online fraud team is warning Americans about the dangers they face from an increase in online banking scams. According to the Bureau, it expects malicious cyber actors will “attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps.”

This may sound alarmist, but when you consider the fact that more people are banking online now than ever before, you can see why the FBI is acting urgently. According to CNBC, Fidelity National Information Services reported a 200% spike in mobile banking signups, which means there’s a host of new targets out there for scammers to take advantage of.

The FBI states that the two primary threats are fake banking apps and malicious banking trojans disguised as other apps. If you make the mistake of downloading either of these, your privacy and finances may be at risk.

Only one question remains: How do you know which apps are legitimate and which are malicious?

Protecting yourself from this trending cyber threat

The FBI lists a few ways to stay safe, which (if you’re an active reader) may sound hauntingly familiar. Just like with ordinary phishing scams, your biggest risk is falling for the trick in the first place. If you know what to avoid, you’ll probably be safe.

  • If your bank offers it, use two-factor authentication. Most banking apps have this feature available under security settings, and enabling it can prevent an unauthorized user from accessing your account. Tap or click here to see how to set it up on your favorite online accounts.
  • Never keep personally-identifying information in unencrypted areas on your phone. This includes inside Notes, reminders and third-party applications.
  • Only download apps from trusted app sources like the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. Third-party app repositories are often hotbeds for malicious software and fake applications. Any “all-in-one” banking applications that let you access multiple accounts are a major red flag, as are companion apps that are unaffiliated with your bank.
  • If you have an Android, research every single app in depth before downloading. The Google Play Store is no stranger to malware, and third-party apps containing trojans have been discovered on the platform before. If you’re downloading any app, even if it’s not banking related, do the necessary research and make sure it’s actually what it claims to be.
  • Don’t open any emails or links from people you don’t recognize. The same thing goes with emails that claim to be from your bank. If your bank has an issue with you, they’ll likely mail you or call you first.
  • Never share any 2FA access codes with anyone under any circumstances. Many fake banking apps use a false error message when you attempt to login with 2FA enabled, and the message instructs users to share the code they receive in an “alternative way.” Ignore any requests like this and delete the app if you get this kind of message.

For more detailed tips for safe and secure online banking, tap or click here to see our full-featured guide.

People are already struggling enough under the financial fallout of COVID-19, and the fact that hackers and criminals are targeting bank accounts at this point in time just adds fuel to the fire. At this point, the best thing you can do is not give them the chance to wreak any more havoc.

Stay safe and secure, and please, whatever you do, be careful what you download.

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