Banks offer to send alerts for each transaction happening on a customers account. My bank is offering three options: SMS alerts, email alerts and push alerts into their own app. Only sms alerts are free of charge. The other options are a very small fee each time a transaction happens.

Could scammers make much out of transaction alerts containing the transaction's IBAN, the amount and sender and recipient?

Besides that, what is the wisest choice between the options? Email notifications could be intercepted if the scammers gain control of my email account. I might not receive emails while traveling in an area with low reception, while sms still come through.

SMS might be problematic if my phone gets stolen with the sim card. So there's no way to be informed (but also no good way to authenticate myself to the bank to halt all transactions).

The bank app is not good because it relies on me having a smart phone and an internet connection. The bank states that email and sms will be send unencrypted (as usual), this option is not clear, but it probably will be.

Which of these options offers the most unlikely scam scenarios?

1 Answer 1


Depending on the attacker, they probably won't care much about the meta data for your transactions

If someone was targeting you specifically, because you are a high profile target, then they may want this information as a part of their reconnaissance.

Assuming you are not a high profile target that needs to be concerned about attackers reading your emails, you don't have to worry too much about the emails being sent in clear text. Assuming your bank is not sending your personal information or credentials. This is more of a privacy concern than a security one.

The attacker may be more interested in intercepting One Time Passwords (OTP)

If you choose email and the attacker hacks your email account, they may set up forwarding from your email account to one they own, along with rules to "Move messages from X Bank to Trash". They would do this to get any one time passwords sent to that email address without you noticing.

Don't reuse password between your account, and set up multi-factor authentication if your email service supports it.

SIM Swapping, though more rare, poses the same threat

Using a mobile phone for communication with your bank, would require the attacker to gain control of your phone's number. Note, them stealing your physical device is not the same thing, in that case you can have your carrier prevent messages from going to that SIM/Device. SIM Swapping is technique where the attacker convinces your cell phone carrier to forward messages to a new SIM/Device--details of this attack are outside of the scope of this question. There are more details on that here.

Push notifications cannot be forwarded like the other two, but also would not be used for OTP

Push notification would not (read: should not) be used for One Time Passwords, because that would be assuming the device is already trusted, thus defeating the purpose.

The attack vector you should be most concerned with is Phishing

Which ever one you decide on, it is important not to trust notifications that come in the other forms (i.e. if you subscribed to email notification, don't trust text notification and visa versa).

Also, each one is susceptible to phishing in a different way: email will be sent to you from weird addresses pretending to be your bank, same with text messages, push notifications may be sent from another app pretending to be the banks app. Each one of these phishing vectors require you to take certain precautions:

  • Always confirm the address of the sender, before clicking on links or downloading the remote content of an email
  • Do not reply with your credentials or personal information in any correspondence with your bank, via email or text (your bank should not ask you to do this for any reason)
  • Don't download apps you don't trust
  • Don't visiting websites you don't trust while logged in to your bank
  • Research Phishing and how to prevent it, because it is mostly about being cautious, which judging by your question you already are

All three have vulnerabilities

It seems you already know this, but no method is perfect, and each one presents its own risks. It will be up to you to decide which one you are most comfortable with, and be alert against phishing attempts.

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