Kendra Fryer relies on her smartphone to handle any kind of banking activity she needs done during her busy schedule.
Time is of the essence for Fryer, a hairstylist at a downtown Augusta salon, and her Samsung Galaxy Note II serves as the perfect device to ensure her banking needs are met in a convenient and quick fashion, she said.
“I’m so busy serving other people,” said Fryer, who works at Perry & Company Salon. “That’s a part of my job, so I don’t have time to just up and go everywhere to pay bills. I have to do it from my phone.
“Between hair drying and while I’m sitting down waiting for my food to be served, that’s what time that I have to myself to take care of those type of needs.”
Fryer said she’s aware of security breaches that could arise through mobile banking, including hacking, identity theft and malware threats, but she’s not concerned.
She has been an avid user of mobile banking since 2006 without any problems.
In an effort to safeguard her phone, Fryer accesses her account only through a bank application and has installed anti-virus and anti-hacking software, created a password code to unlock her phone and makes certain her bank account is logged off through an automatic timer that is triggered by inactivity.
Experts affirm that Fryer’s methods of protection are legitimate but add other ways that customers can guard against fraudulent activity.
According to Citizens Banks, headquartered in Rhode Island, avoiding public Wi-Fi networks, setting up daily alerts that track account activity and using only encrypted Web sites for transactions are additional shields in blocking bank fraud.
Also, to ward off attempts by third parties to glean personal information, never share bank information through texts and refrain from accessing a bank Web site through e-mail links. Protecting against hackers and identity thieves is likely to become more critical as mobile banking becomes more ubiquitous.
Though mobile banking has been around for years, a Federal Reserve report released this year revealed that as of November 2012, 28 percent of mobile phone users and 48 percent of smartphone users had accessed mobile banking in the past year, increasing from a respective 21 percent and 42 percent in December 2011.
The report found that 87 percent of mobile banking users review account balances and recent transactions, while an additional 53 percent transfer money between accounts.
“It’s certainly more and more popular, and it’s certainly growing pretty rapidly,” said Remer Brinson III, the president and CEO at First Bank of Georgia. “What you really try to do is offer your customers as many avenues as you can and then let them chose the ones that work best for them depending on their circumstances.”
The Augusta-based bank started offering mobile banking services nearly two years ago as an added level of convenience, Brinson said.
Brinson said there are lots of security features built into the encrypted mobile site, such as offering customers an iPhone app and requiring that they make passwords and validate devices through the bank.
“It’s like any product,” he said. “You kind of need to know what the risks are for it. In our view, it’s not more risky than a checkbook and it may actually be less risky, but you have to manage your privacy on it. You need to protect your information there. You don’t need to store your password on your phone, and you just need to be diligent about how you manage it.”
Of the 2,600 respondents polled in the Fed survey, the share of consumers who rated mobile banking browsers or apps as very safe or somewhat safe dropped from 42 percent in 2011 to 38 percent in 2012.
Likewise, the report showed a decline from 40 percent in 2011 to 35 percent last year in those who felt their personal information was very or somewhat protected on those outlets.
John Scott, an Augusta resident, is wary of mobile banking – with good reason.
In a two-year span, Scott and his wife were victims, 10 times, of fraud that originated from mobile banking.
Scott said his bank’s site was hacked and his information fell into the wrong hands.
The thieves racked up thousands in fraudulent charges all across the world, but luckily the money was insured.
Scott said he’ll never use another mobile device for banking and instead chooses to go directly to his bank for in-person service.
“Even if it’s just $5 or $6 that somebody tried to get off your account one day, it all adds up,” he said. “There’s people that have full-time jobs where all they do is steal your money.”
Fryer sees no reason to continue face-to-face interactions with her bank, however.
“When it comes to your big corporations, you don’t have that one-on-one or that ‘whatever I can do to help serve you’ experience anymore,” she said. “It’s more of an in-and-out, so why not just do mobile banking?”