Bariatric Surgery Can Offer Long-Term Weight Loss and Good Health for Patients

ACCORDING TO THE CENTERS FOR Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (36.5 percent) of American adults are obese. In addition, the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimates that medical care costs associated with this disease are more than $147 billion per year and rising, as obesity increases the risk of costly, chronic conditions such as dia­betes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers.

Since surgical procedures to treat obe­sity are delivering some promising out­comes for patients, COMMERCE asked doctors from New Jersey’s top hospitals to discuss the options that are available and key considerations for anyone con­sidering one of these procedures.

Atlantic Health System, Overlook Medical Center

By Ajay Goyal, M.D., FACS, Director of Bariatric Surgery; Associate Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery

Weight loss surgery—gastric sleeve and gastric bypass—is recognized by the National Institutes of Health as the most effective long-term solution for people struggling with obesity and looking to take control of their health. I discuss with my patients that weight loss sur­gery success goes beyond seeing a small­er number when you step on the scale. It’s about resolving chronic health condi­tions, as well as victories as simple as  walking without shortness of breath to as remarkable as completing a 5k race. One of my patients, who had a family medical history of cardiovascular disease and obesity, knew he wanted to break the cycle of poor eating habits, the constant struggle to lose weight and increasing health concerns—his high blood pressure and severe acid reflux. He had gastric sleeve surgery, lost 65 pounds and says he feels like his life is back on track. His blood pressure is nor­mal, and his acid reflux problems are gone. With more energy, he has an avid interest in staying active and continues to train for his next 5K race.

East Orange General Hospital

By Naveen Ballem, M.D., FACS, Bariatric Surgery

There are multiple options for surgical weight loss, including the gastric balloon, lap band, lap sleeve gastrectomy and the lap gastric bypass. The choice of proce­dures is tailored to the needs of each patient and their medical issues. With these bariatric procedures, patients not only lose weight, but also their medical comorbidities, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and sleep apnea. We use a multidisciplinary approach utilizing dietitians, psycholo­gists and personal trainers to ensure each patient reaches their weight loss goals. The most commonly performed bariatric procedure in the United States is the lap sleeve gastrectomy; the aver­age weight loss seen is about 70 percent of one’s excess weight, which typically occurs within 12 months to 18 months. The hormonal effects of this operation help reduce the amount of hunger hor­mones stomachs produce (ghrelin and leptin), which helps patients lose weight and maintain it long term. The strongest effect of weight loss surgery is with the improvement of type 2 diabetes, which occurs more than 90 percent of the time. The results—patients that were once 100 pounds overweight are now running marathons, competing in triathlons and climbing mountains.

Englewood Health

By James McGinty, M.D., Chief of Surgery and Surgical Services

Obesity is not a moral failing, or something within patients’ control—it’s a disease that has a major impact on health. Patients start the process six months before surgery, meet­ing with not only our expert weight loss surgeons, but also our primary care physicians, registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, psychologists and support groups to prepare them nutritionally, medically and emotionally for the oper­ation. Two of the most widely per­formed weight loss surgeries are the vertical sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass. These procedures alter intestinal hormones that influence metabolism and weight loss, leading to a longer, more fulfilling life by preventing, improving or resolving obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea, as well as lower back or joint diseases, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux. Both procedures are performed laparo­scopically at Englewood Health, a fact that has significantly decreased surgical complications and mortality rate, while shortening recovery times and decreas­ing postsurgical pain. When I was in training, the accepted mortality rate was 2 percent to 3 percent, and now it’s less than 1 percent. After surgery, patients are carefully monitored for the rest of their lives to be certain they maintain their new weight successfully and safely.

Hackensack Meridian Health, JFK Medical Center

By Alexander Abkin, M.D., Medical Director

Lifestyle changes are the key to permanent weight loss, and bariatric surgery can help address the comorbid conditions associated with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. Sleeve gastrectomy is a restrictive procedure which reduces the amount of food you can eat at one time. The outer portion of the stomach is removed leaving a sleeve of stomach roughly the size of a banana. After the “sleeve” is created, the leftover part of the stomach is removed. By reducing the size of the stomach, sleeve gastrectomy allows the patient to feel full after eat­ing less and taking in fewer calories. On average, patients can expect approx­imately 50 percent to 60 percent excess weight loss. With gastric band surgery, the surgeon creates a stomach pouch that makes the stomach a lot smaller, reducing the amount of food it can hold. The stomach pouch is then surgi­cally attached to the middle of the small intestine. This limits the number of calo­ries that are absorbed and sends mes­sages to your brain that you are full. Patients can expect approximately 60 percent to 80 percent excess weight loss.

Hackensack Meridian Health, Southern Ocean Medical Center

By Karl W. Strom, M.D., FACS, Bariatric Surgery Program

The sleeve gastrectomy is currently the most common procedure performed. This procedure reduces the size of the stomach, allowing patients to feel satis­fied with less food. It also helps with satiety by removing the hunger hor­mones in the stomach. A gastric band is a device that, when inserted around the upper portion of the patient’s stom­ach, creates a small pouch, which also allows the patient to feel satisfied while restricting the amount of food they con­sume. The band is both adjustable and removable if necessary. Gastric bypass is another option for patients struggling with their weight. Being the most inva­sive procedure, this option is reserved for patients who have significant weight to lose or have diabetes that is not well controlled. Gastric bypass involves changing a patient’s anatomy to decrease the number of calories consumed. All three procedures are performed laparoscopically, with little incisions and are minimally invasive. Obesity is a disease that is often the cause of several other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. There are several weight loss surgery procedures that can alleviate these conditions by helping patients lose their excess weight and improve or even cure their weight-related comorbidities and enhance their quality of life and overall health.

Holy Name Medical Center

By Stefanie Vaimakis, M.D., Medical Director of Bariatric Services

Our Bariatric Services provide adult and adolescent patients with state-of-the-art surgical and non-surgical weight-loss treatment options, nutrition counseling and psychosocial support. We also offer specialized servic­es that respect patients’ dignity and comfort, including a dedicated inpatient unit, nurses with expertise in caring for bariatric patients, sensitivity training for all staff, and equipment and furnishings for larger patients. Bariatric surgery is the best long-term solution and often is curative for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and urinary incontinence. Weight-loss surgery can also reduce the incidence of joint pain, asthma symptoms, migraines and gastroesophageal reflux. Our board-certified bariatric surgeons use minimal­ly invasive laparoscopic techniques to perform sleeve gastrectomy surgery, gas­tric bypass surgery and adjustable gastric banding. An innovative non-surgical option is the endoscopic gastric balloon procedure for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or above, who are not candidates for bariatric surgery or are not interested in surgery. We also offer a medically supervised weight-loss pro­gram to help patients lose pounds and maintain a healthy weight. When com­bined with a lifetime commitment to following guidelines for diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, all of these treat­ment options can result in long-term weight loss.

Jefferson Health

By Louis Balsama, D.O., FACS, Bariatric Surgeon

Weight loss surgery has evolved over the past 50 years to treat morbid obesity, as well as to reduce medical issues related with a patient’s weight. The most useful procedures are those which offer the best weight loss with the least amount of complications and weight regain. Currently, the most popular procedures are the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and laparoscopic gastric bypass, although others are still being used in modern surgery with good results. Weight loss, in itself, may improve or resolve many medical issues, including diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, arthritis, and high cholesterol. As a bariatric surgeon, I have seen great suc­cess in my patients. One of my notable patients lost more than 400 pounds and kept it off, over six years and counting! He also reduced his medications from more than 10 pills a day to one single multivitamin. It is very satisfying, as a surgeon, to see such results. Weight loss surgery simply extends and improves lives. It is not only an important modali­ty of treatment for many medical prob­lems, it is really the most effective long-term treatment for morbid obesity.

New Bridge Medical Center

By Gian Varbaro, M.D., Chief Medical Officer

There are a wide range of options for bariatric sur­gery. These procedures range from mini­mally invasive endoscopy, where bal­loon-like objects are placed in the stom­ach, to smaller surgeries, such as the gastric sleeve, to more extensive surger­ies like the traditional gastric bypass. The best procedure for a patient varies depending on many factors, such as the patient’s starting weight, other medical problems, and socioeconomic factors and situations. Bariatric procedures can help with a patient’s diabetes, obstruc­tive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, among other medical issues. I can per­sonally attest to the efficacy of these procedures as I lost more than 100 pounds after a gastric sleeve procedure with no complications at all and I have significantly increased energy since my procedure.

RWJBarnabas Health, Clara Maass Medical Center

By Harvey Rainville, M.D., FACS, Medical Director of Robotic Surgery

There are many options available to help patients lose weight. However, patients who are currently obese or morbidly obese will see the greatest long-term results with surgical weight loss. The most common weight loss pro­cedures available include the gastric bal­loon, gastric band, sleeve gastrectomy and the gastric bypass. The choice of procedure is tailored to the needs of each patient. With bariatric surgery patients not only lose significant weight but also many of their medical prob­lems, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. We use a multidisciplinary approach utiliz­ing dietitians, psychologists, and person­al trainers to ensure each patient reach­es their weight loss goals. The most commonly performed procedure is the sleeve gastrectomy. It has a greater than 90 percent success rate of getting patients to their goal weight, which typically occurs within 12 months to 18 months. The hormonal effects of this operation help reduce the amount of hunger signals stomachs produce (ghre­lin and leptin), and this helps patients lose weight and maintain it long-term. We are fortunate to see on a daily basis the positive impact these procedures have on our patients’ lives.

Saint Peter’s University Hospital

By Carlos A. Macias, M.D., General Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery for weight loss is performed under gen­eral anesthesia. A surgeon divides the stomach into a small upper section and a larger bottom section. The top section of the stomach is where food eaten goes and, since it is connected to the small intestine, the stomach, the duode­num and first portion of the jejunum are bypassed and thus cannot absorb nutrients as they usually do. This proce­dure is both restrictive because the stomach is made smaller and malabsorptive because the bypassed segment of the gastrointestinal tract cannot absorb any nutrients. Patients feel sated although they are eating and absorbing less food. Patients must take vitamins and other nutrients. Gastric sleeve surgery, or vertical sleeve gastrectomy, is the most common option nowadays. The procedure is performed under gen­eral anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon narrows the stomach into a thin vertical sleeve, about the size and shape of a banana. The remainder of the stomach is removed. This is a restric­tive operation. The patient’s smaller stomach gets full quickly after eating smaller portions of food, so the patient is satisfied after consuming less calories. Digestion and absorption of nutrients is not impaired, and the patient seldom needs any dietary supplements.

Valley Medical Group

By Melissa Bagloo, M.D., Medical Director, Center for Bariatric Surgery and Weight-Loss Management

Bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most effective long-term treat­ment for the disease of obesity. The most common operations performed today are the sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Less commonly performed are the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band and duodenal switch operations. Patients can expect to lose an average of 60 percent to 70 percent of their excess weight after surgery. More importantly, patients see signifi­cant improvements in their associated medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain and high cholesterol. In fact, patients with diabetes are often dis­charged home off all of their diabetes medications immediately after surgery. Overall, patients experience an increased quality of life and are able to enjoy activities that they otherwise have not been able to participate in. All of the bariatric operations are able to be performed through minimally invasive techniques using small incisions across the upper abdomen, thereby making recovery much faster and decreasing pain after surgery. The overwhelming majority of patients who have under­gone bariatric surgery are happy with their progress and feel that they are living healthier, more enjoyable lives.

Obesity “Epidemic” Leading to More Total Joint Replacements

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 500,000 total knee replacements and 300,000 total hip replacements are performed each year. These numbers represent a three-fold increase in frequency since 1993. A study appearing in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that an increase in the prevalence of overweight people and obesity in the United States accounted for 95 percent of the higher demand for knee replacements, with younger patients the most affected.

“Joint replacement technology has improved, leading more people to con­sent to surgery, but there is a definite cause and effect with weight gain and joint problems,” explains James Dunleavy, Ph.D., director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. People who carry additional body weight increase the pressure on their hip and knee joints, which often leads to the need for total joint replacements, he adds.

“Obesity also impacts the ability of total joint replacement patients to achieve all the potential functional gains that the procedure can provide, while it affects patients’ ability to heal properly after surgery as well,” explains Dr. Dunleavy. “At Trinitas, we screen patients using body mass index and other measures to determine their risk and the expected outcomes of our care.”

5 Ways to Protect Your Small Business from Account Fraud

Cybercriminals are targeting small businesses with increasingly sophisticated attacks. Criminals use spoofed emails, malicious software spread through infected attachments and online social networks to obtain login credentials to businesses’ accounts, transfer funds from the accounts and steal private information, a fraud referred to as “corporate account takeover.”

Combating account takeover is a shared responsibility between businesses and financial institutions. Bankers can explain the safeguards small businesses need and the numerous programs available that help ensure fund transfers, payroll requests and withdrawals are legitimate, accurate and authorized. Companies should train employees about safe internet use and the warning signs of this fraud, because they are the first line of defense.

“Small businesses are popular targets of cybercrime,” said Paul Van Ostenbridge, President and CEO of Atlantic Stewardship Bank. “Business owners are encouraged to minimize their exposure to online threats by educating their front-line employees and staying alert for any account or network activity that appears suspicious.”

In recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, ASB is offering small businesses these tips to help prevent account takeover:

  • Educate your employees. You and your employees are the first line of defense against corporate account takeover. A strong security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and responses to a suspected takeover are essential to protecting your company and customers.
  • Protect your online environment. It is important to protect your cyber environment just as you would your cash and physical location. Do not use unprotected internet connections. Encrypt sensitive data and keep updated virus protections on your computer. Use complex passwords and change them periodically.
  • Partner with your bank to prevent unauthorized transactions. Talk to your banker about programs that safeguard you from unauthorized transactions. Positive Pay and other services offer call backs, device authentication, multi-person approval processes and batch limits help protect you from fraud.
  • Pay attention to suspicious activity and react quickly. Look out for unexplained account or network activity, pop ups, and suspicious emails. If detected, immediately contact your financial institution, stop all online activity and remove any systems that may have been compromised. Keep records of what happened.
  • Understand your responsibilities and liabilities. The account agreement with your bank will detail what commercially reasonable security measures are required in your business. It is critical that you understand and implement the security safeguards in the agreement. If you don’t, you could be liable for losses resulting from a takeover. Talk to your banker if you have any questions about your responsibilities.

To learn more, see ABA’s Small Business Guide to Corporate Account Takeover (http://www.aba.com/Tools/Function/Fraud/Pages/CorporateAccountTakeoverSmallBusiness.aspx).

How Can You Make a Merger Work and Why You Should!

In today’s complicated and congested corporate and nonprofit communities, mergers, alliances, and collaborations are taking center stage.  Everyone from funders, donors and volunteers to investment bankers and business consultants are advising their clients – from large and small-to-mid-sized corporations to nonprofit organizations – to consider the power and advantages of merging.

It makes sense for leaders to embrace this advice and seriously think about a merger or even a collaborative arrangement. This is smart for a variety of reasons, including creating some obvious opportunities such as strengthening the future of an organization by bolstering its financial standing through a combination with another, more profitable, entity; expanding the scope of services by aligning with an organization that has a broader menu of services and products or a different geographic or demographic footprint; or even ensuring a seamless succession by combining an aging organization with one that has a concentration of younger, next generation leaders.

Whatever the reason for the merger, there are some steps that leaders on both sides should consider.

It is fairly simple to identify the reasons for entering into a merger discussion, but it is much more difficult to actually participate in a merger.

Whenever a company or a nonprofit decides to explore a merger, they likely focus on the benefits that will result.  This positive and optimistic outlook may get in the way of reality. Not all mergers work out over time despite good intentions.

Personal experience demonstrates that one of the greatest obstacles to a merger’s ultimate successful integration is not found in the legal documents nor is it likely to be discovered during the due diligence process. That is because the obstacle is the resistance that is in the hearts of the employees and the communities they serve.

After years or decades of building a name, a solid reputation and a meaningful legacy, the concept of merging is (at least initially) hard to accept. Who doesn’t recall a trip to the airport when United and Continental airlines originally merged, only to hear the Continental gate agents say, “It’s not our fault – it’s them,” when something went wrong with your flight reservation!  The deep pride that the Continental employees had invested in the company’s culture literally “flew” right out the window when the brand name all but disappeared.  The resentment between the two teams ran deep. Even though the airport signage was unveiled and the new logos graced the planes, the merger was years away from being accepted by those most affected by the deal.

It is no less impactful when a merger of two companies or nonprofits that are of lesser status than global giants like Continental and United takes place. By the time leaders call their staff together to finalize the big announcement, it has been rumored for months. They promise a brighter future together, they say there will be few operations changes, they laud a common goal, philosophy and culture and they confidently predict the merger will help them reach their strategic objectives.

But we know that much of this is either untrue or cannot easily be accomplished. Employees are skeptical and for good reason. The guarantee that ‘nothing will change’ morphs into ‘everything will change’ pretty quickly.

What can leaders do differently?

First, company or nonprofit leaders can take control of the timing. Rather than fanning rumors – founded and unfounded – which only serve to raise concerns and create havoc, leaders must keep everyone informed of the merger progress as quickly as possible. When employees are not informed of the facts in as timely and direct was, it is easy for them to create a parallel universe of unsubstantiated news. Leaders believe their merger conversations are confidential but the reality is that leaks occur. Not much escapes the employees. Before the leaders bite the bullet and call an official meeting the news has already been discussed in the parking lots and at the water cooler.

Secondly, leaders have to be honest and transparent. The employees and community deserve the truth. Once they know what is coming, they can react appropriately and, perhaps, ultimately enthusiastically. There is little that is as frightening as the unknown. Recognizing that their leaders have presented the facts as they know them helps employees feel less resentful and more in control of their decisions and their own careers.

Thirdly, there needs to be some team building and special training. Again, this is often overlooked or downplayed.  The two sets of employees cannot integrate on their own and typically their companies do little to help them along. Middle market companies and nonprofits can host small, intimate parlor meetings, hold off-site social gatherings, and host seminars on both the potential perils and terrific benefits of the merger.  Larger corporations can blend some face time and some online training, encouraging interaction when possible but also using technology to introduce people who may be hundreds of thousands of miles apart.

When management takes the lead and sets an example of being sensitive to the issues facing all employees from both organizations, their behavior and code of conduct will encourage the employees to be more aware of, and sensitive to, each other.  It is not uncommon to think that employees from the ‘other side’ are not facing the same scary situation! A little awareness building can help dispel that myth and open the doors to sincere communication.

Leaders must also be available for frank discussions and mentoring for employees at every level. Receptionists, administrative staff, and front line providers all drive the profitability and successful culture of the company. To assume that only the management team needs coaching and support during a stressful time, such as a merger, is foolhardy.

 Ignoring the role of the staff after the merger is risky.

Distributing a press release regarding the merger and filling the media with details does not result in the full integration of the two organizations.  While the public announcement might seem like the culmination of weeks or months of hard work to get both parties to an agreement, it is actually only the first stage of the real work of merging which lies ahead.

A merger is defined as, “an agreement that unites two existing companies or nonprofits into one new entity.” The agreement portion is the beginning, but the unification takes place across many years as the two parties knit together to produce one seamless environment.

This is where company leaders and nonprofit directors may take their eye off the ball.

After the buzz and flurry of activity regarding the merger there is the hard work being done behind the scenes to get the two groups to work together efficiently as one. This takes much more than a few days or weeks and, in fact, is an ongoing process that can spread over years. Using the tactics for blending and unifying the employees as discussed above, while adding other ideas that can address the characteristics unique to a specific merger, leaders will be able to build the bridges and overcome the gaps that support a sustainable merger.

Investing in the mix of different initiatives that are necessary over the long term to create a truly combined entity will yield the return that reflects the value of the merger!

Leading Causes of Debt in New Jersey

Americans currently exceed $13 trillion dollars of outstanding household debt. Within that amount, $9 trillion is related to mortgage balances, $1.5 trillion is related to educational loans, and $2 trillion is split evenly between both auto loans and credit card debt. Very few households around the world utilize debt as freely as the United States’ households do. When household debt is measured against GDP, the United States’ 77.30% ranks as the 11th highest percentage in the world.

How does all of this relate to New Jersey and its residents’ habits?

The Financial Picture of New Jersey’s Residents

As recently as 2016, New Jersey’s median household income was slated at $76,126. This represents a median household income that’s nearly one-third higher than the national average of $57,617, meaning that New Jersey sits comfortably within the top 5of the states with the highest-earning households in the country. However, New Jersey lags behind the national average when it comes to unemployment rates. The state currently sits at a 4.4% unemployment rate, compared to the national average of 3.8%. Furthermore, the relatively high cost of living ranks New Jersey among the top 10 most expensive states to live in, thus, wiping out many of the high-income advantages that come with living within the state. In order to keep up with the high standard of living, many residents have resorted to taking out debt.

Leading Causes of Debt in New Jersey

New Jersey has not been able to escape the prevalent debt-using habits found within the rest of the country. Just like the rest of the nation, the leading causes of debt center around housing, student loans, and credit cards.

Mortgage Debt

Consistent with the rest of the country, the leading cause of debt in New Jersey is related to home ownership. Nearly two-thirds of the residents in New Jersey own their homes, and most of that ownership comes in the form of a mortgage. The average mortgage debt for those with outstanding balances is nearly $250,000, which ranks within the top 10 of the states with the highest averages in the country and is significantly higher than the national average of roughly $200,000 outstanding. What’s more, New Jersey is tied with Mississippi for having the highest rate of mortgage delinquencies of more than 90 days at 2.1%, while the national average sits at about 1.1%.

Student Loan Debt

Behind mortgage loans, student loan debt has the largest overall impact on New Jersey debtors. Those with student loans have taken out a median amount of $18,633, which is higher than the national average of $16,995. Thanks to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, student loans cannot not be discharged through bankruptcy filing. This ruling has contributed to a national student loan default average of 11.3%. New Jersey’s student loan default rate falls below the national average at about 9%, putting it in the top 11of the least defaulting states in the country.

Credit Card Debt

The debt type deemed to be the third-most common in New Jersey is credit card debt. New Jersey has racked up the 7th highest credit card debt in the nationat nearly $30 billion. More troubling is the fact that all of the states ahead of New Jersey have higher populations, as New Jersey ranks 11th in population. Despite its relatively smaller population than the states ahead of it, New Jersey ranks first in the number of credit cards per person at 3.49, fourth in average balance outstanding at $7,151, and maintains a top 20 spot with respect to credit scores at an average score of 686. This supports the notion that the average New Jersey resident has no qualms about spending outside of their immediate means.

How to Cope with Overbearing Debt

Although New Jersey enjoys a place among the median highest-earning households in the United States, high costs of living typically play a role in perpetuating the same free-borrowing behavior that’s present throughout the rest of the country. If the act of keeping up with payments becomes too burdensome, many options for managing outstanding debt are at a borrower’s disposal. One could consider debt settlement alternatives such as debt consolidation, lender negotiation, or even bankruptcy as a last-resort (excluding student loans). Help is only one call, text, or email away.

12 Tips to Protect Your Mobile Device From Hackers

According to the Federal Reserve, more than two-thirds of the U.S. population owns a smartphone or internet-enabled device. As popularity among these devices continues to grow, Atlantic Stewardship Bank is highlighting 12 important steps that users can take to protect their devices from cyber threats.

“Customers use their smartphones for everything¾ whether it’s to make payments, go shopping or conduct everyday banking transactions,” said Paul Van Ostenbridge, President and CEO of Atlantic Stewardship Bank. “As usage increases and more data is transmitted, it is extremely important that consumers avoid downloading any app that requests unnecessary permissions or clicking links that may raise suspicion.

In recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, ASB recommends the following tips to help consumers protect the data on their mobile device from cyber thieves:

  • Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.
  • Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.
  • Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software, or malware, just like you do for your computer by installing mobile security software.
  • Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.
  • Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”
  • Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a social security number on your mobile device.
  • Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.
  • Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.
  • Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
  • Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.
  • Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren’t very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network.
  • Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.