PORTLAND -- When was the last time you were inside a bank? More and more people are using mobile banking to manage their money.
Hackers are also breaking into mobile bank accounts at an alarming rate, but there are ways to protect yourself.
"It starts with the apps you download," said KGW tech expert Brian M. Westbrook. "Only use the official apps found on banks' websites, not some random app that might say it works with your particular branch."
Many smart phones have added firewall protection that a lot of personal computers lack. But if you're using an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection, hackers could be waiting to watch your every digital move.
Westbrook suggests creating strong passwords for your banking apps and making sure you pass code-protect access to your phone, which a lot of people ignore or take for granted.
"My dad uses '1111,’ to lock his phone," said mobile banker Nicole Bright. "I wouldn't use that, or something like my birthday."
If a crook cracks your phone code, the app can't tell you're not the person using it.
"(The crook) would have full access to your account information,” said Westbrook. “It might be as easy as putting my account in there and transferring all of your money into my account.”
To create an effective password, Westbrook suggested using a tricky combination of numbers and letters, and not picking something predictable.
"I ask theft victims about the passwords they used and they say, 'Oh, it was my mother's maiden name, my cat's name, my daughter's name, but I added letter or number to it.' Those are easy-to-crack passwords," Westbrook said. "Use a complicated password and don't write it down."
It’s also important not to access websites from links sent via e-mails, even if they look like they're from your bank. Always visit your bank's website by typing in the URL. If your phone is stolen, call your bank immediately and change all your account passwords from a personal computer, as soon as possible.