Voice Assistants like Alexa and Google Can Handle Your Money – but Should You Let Them?

Financial organizations and banks have recently begun giving their customers the option of utilizing a virtual assistant to access their bank balances and even pay bills. These assistants (Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa) will soon also be able to send funds after the voice command to do so has been given.

However, concerns about security are not unfounded since smart speakers and virtual assistants have been released fairly recently and it’s possible that they could be vulnerable to misuse or hacking by virtual criminals.

“Voices of authorized users can be taped, altered, and played back to the virtual assistants, which could make financial fraud a real possibility since the devices are capable of transferring money,” stated David McKenzie, attorney and founder of McKenzie Law Firm.

U.S. Bank is already an option for all three virtual assistants after a preliminary unveiling of the services in March 2018. American Express and Capital One both have Alexa skills (applications) that give customers the opportunity to pay bills and find out balances. Many other financial institutions have also initiated plans to offer features that can be accessed by the assistant.

Currently, the capabilities that are available when banking-by-voice with U.S. Bank are mostly limited. Transferring money by voice is not currently an option, but the bank has stated that it is a possibility in the future. Developers are curious to see how people use their voice assistants.

Until now, virtual assistants have been relied on to play music, tell jokes, or to forecast the weather as the functionality takes place through the device stating information out loud through the speaker. Asking Siri, Alexa, or Google to access personal data could be awkward if an available account balance is stated loudly when visitors are over.

Users of Alexa and Google will be required to securely log in and connect to the bank with the device through the application area (Google Actions, or Alexa Skills). Every bank will require that a secure PIN is entered correctly prior to allowing access to bank information or the account balance. Each device recommends setting a unique PIN from the user’s bank ATM card.

Siri by Apple has the most limited banking functionality out of all of the assistants, as it can only bring up the balance that an account currently has on a separate screen, and bill pay features are not yet integrated. Siri can launch bank applications through the user’s iPhone and iPad, but banking commands are not a working feature of Apple’s smart speaker, the HomePod.

Though voice recognition is built into Google Assistant, U.S. Bank does not have their application utilizing it yet. This could be an extra layer of security, even though there could be ways to circumvent it. Third party devices do not store data when accessing banking information, and in case of theft or fraud, U.S. Bank has stated that they will cover their clients 100%.