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Consumer Action’s ‘Share Financial Data with Care’ project to educate FinTech app users to be ‘security savvy’

New campaign will provide resources for consumers to control access and safeguard their financial information on financial apps

Contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 202-544-3088

San Francisco, CA, Feb. 23, 2021—Consumer Action, a national consumer education and advocacy nonprofit, today launched a new project to expand consumer awareness about how financial services applications (“apps”) access, collect, store, use and share customers’ personal information. The project will educate consumers by sharing free resources, including tips, videos and webinars, about how to control and protect their financial information when using apps that aggregate bank and other financial services accounts.

While these popular apps help users manage their personal finances and monitor their accounts, consumers need to be better informed about the access they are giving apps and how to control what personal information is shared.

“Careless use of FinTech apps can lead to fraud and loss of privacy,” said Linda Sherry of Consumer Action. “We know FinTech apps are useful and convenient, so our goal is to suggest ways to use these apps in a safer manner while preserving the benefits they offer.”

The “Share Financial Data with Care” project, funded by The Clearing House, features online resources [http://bit.ly/fintech-privacy] where consumers can watch a short video and get advice and tips for using apps securely. (Spanish and Chinese translations will follow soon.) In the coming months, Consumer Action will hold free webinars about the safe use of FinTech apps for community-based organization staff and individuals. All materials are free and available for educational use.

Financial apps often store users’ bank account, credit union and brokerage login credentials, but subject users to “terms and conditions” that limit the app company’s liability in the event of a data breach. When app logins piggyback on customer-supplied usernames and passwords, it can be difficult for financial services companies to distinguish between screen-scraping “bots,” malicious hackers and actual customers. In fact, some financial institutions estimate that up to 50% of online banking logins come from screen-scraping bots.

“Financial apps can provide significant benefits to consumers, but consumers should know how to better protect their financial data while using the apps,” said Ben Isaacson, senior vice president of product strategy at The Clearing House, a banking association and payments company. “This Consumer Action campaign aims to help consumers understand how to more safely use their financial apps.” 

Research from The Clearing House found that 54% of U.S. banking customers had used at least one FinTech app in the past year, but most of these users are not aware that once they provide their financial account login credentials, the app provider often gains access to all transactional and even personal information. App users are also often unaware they are accepting terms that give app providers permission to sell and share their data for marketing purposes. A lack of awareness about the types of data third parties can access and what they can do with it could mean that consumers are sometimes not in control of their data.

“Unless users understand the ways apps potentially use their financial data, they will not be in a position to fully protect their financial information from marketers and data brokers,” said Sherry. “We understand banks are developing safer ways to allow users to share select information with FinTech apps, but, until these are universally available at all financial services companies, it’s important for consumers to stay ‘security savvy.’”

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Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change. By providing consumer education materials in multiple languages, a free national hotline, a comprehensive website (www.consumer-action.org) and annual surveys of financial and consumer services, Consumer Action helps consumers assert their rights in the marketplace and make financially savvy choices. More than 6,000 community and grassroots organizations benefit annually from its extensive outreach programs, training materials and support.

 

 

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