Most adults in the US have a mobile phone, and the majority of them are smartphones. But even the most avid smartphone users often fail to appreciate how valuable their favorite electronic device is and how easily it can be used to steal their identity.
The fact is, dumb things happen to smartphones, so the smart thing to do is to protect your device from drops, spills and loss, and to safeguard the valuable information it contains so that you don’t fall prey to identity thieves. Follow this advice to help you keep your smartphone—and your banking information, identity, credit rating, and much more—safe and sound.
Today, millions use smartphones as their primary gateway to the web, and many affirm that they can’t live without their phone. But they often don’t know how much it would cost to replace it. That’s because they buy it at a subsidized rate through a carrier. The average cost to replace a smartphone is $500, and unless you have smartphone insurance that covers mishaps, you might have to pay that amount or more out of pocket to replace your device. Get a protective case and keep your valuable phone safe.
If you’re just checking Facebook or viewing a news or entertainment site at the local coffee shop or airport lounge, using public Wi-Fi can be a good way to avoid exceeding your carrier’s monthly data limit. But logging onto secure accounts such as e-commerce sites or banking apps can put you in the crosshairs of an online identity thief. Cyber scammers can hack your device and view sensitive account information via public Wi-Fi, so it pays to play it safe when using a hotspot.
Approximately 32% of smartphone users do not use a PIN, tracking software or remote wiping capabilities for their devices, and that can be a terrible mistake. If a smartphone that is not protected by a PIN is lost or stolen, anyone can access sensitive information like bank account numbers, secure site passwords, and contact lists in just seconds and steal your identity. Always set up a PIN for your smartphone—it won’t slow you down at all when you receive a call.
It’s a good idea to review the factory settings on your phone to make sure you’re not inadvertently sharing information, such as your exact location every time you upload a photo on Facebook or Instagram. If the setting is applied, GPS coordinates will attach to the photo or video you post online, allowing any savvy person—who might be up to no good—to find your precise location.
When you log onto a banking app or ecommerce site that stores your financial account information, the site may give you the option to save your password so you can access your account more quickly next time. Don’t do it. If your smartphone falls into the wrong hands, a thief will be able to find and use your confidential information that much more easily, stealing your identity and running up thousands in fraudulent charges.
It’s a good idea to go to the phone’s settings and return it to its factory settings. By doing so, you will erase everything on the phone—personal data, photos, and any stored passwords. If you do restore the phone to its factory settings, be sure to have first backed it up properly if you plan on putting all of it back on your new phone.
There are many phone cases available that include slots or bi-folds to hold a credit card and driver’s license. While this is incredibly convenient for minimalist phone owners who prefer carrying self-contained items that are as light and slim as possible, if you lose your phone—you lose everything else with it. If someone steals your phone, they’ve also just stolen your license and credit or debit card. Reconsider and carry your phone and a slim wallet or money clip that remains separate from your phone. If you lose one, hopefully you haven’t simultaneously lost the other.
According to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Justice, credit card data theft skyrocketed, increasing 50% from 2005 to 2010. An estimated 16.6 million people, representing 7 percent of all persons age 16 or older in the United States, experienced at least one incident of identity theft in 2012. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released an eye-opening report finding identity theft cost Americans $10 billion more last year than all other property crimes measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey.
You know that identity theft happens, so take the extra steps to protect your money and identity by securing your mobile wallet—your smartphone. Always keep an eye on all of your accounts and don’t wait until after the fact to protect yourself.
People love their smartphones, but they aren’t as careful with them as they should be. If you depend on your smartphone, it’s important to recognize its true value and think about how you would replace it if it were lost, stolen, or damaged beyond repair. Take steps to physically safeguard it. Consider a smartphone protection plan or insurance coverage, so you can get a replacement or repair without breaking the bank. There are also all-in-one plans that cover your most valuable electronics, including smartphones, no matter what the brand.
Also keep in mind that your smartphone contains sensitive data, especially if you use it for banking and shopping. Be wary of accessing public Wi-Fi to transmit confidential information, and do all you can to protect your personal data by strengthening phone security. By following these tips, you can protect your smartphone – and your identity.
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