Smart Phones and Identity Theft
Smartphones make a lot of things easier, from sending a quick email, to looking up tomorrow’s weather, to locating the nearest Starbucks.
Unfortunately, smartphones can also make things easier for identity thieves – the criminals who seek to access your personal information and use it against you. Your smartphone is, after all, a key part of your identity. Just think about how much you rely on it every day and how much its contents alone reveal about you.
So what would happen if your iPhone somehow slipped from your fingers and landed in the wrong hands?
Here are a few precautions you can take to help proactively protect your identity, in the event that your smartphone is somehow lost or stolen:
- Get a password. Securing your smartphone with a password is probably the simplest precaution you can take. And yet, according to Javelin research, about 62 percent of smartphone users do not secure their phones with a password. Of course, setting up a password on your phone will by no means protect it completely, but it is at least a start. You may also be able to set up your smartphone so that it will automatically erase all of your data after a certain number of failed password entry attempts. (Of course, if you decide to do this, you should make sure you have your data backed up somewhere else, like on your home computer.)
- Treat your phone like a computer. You should remember that your smartphone is essentially a mini computer. The security precautions you take with your smartphone should mirror the precautions you take with your personal computer. When reading emails on your phone, be careful about opening anything suspicious in order to avoid phishing attacks. And just as with your computer, you should be very cautious about what you download onto your smartphone. For instance, you should be careful about which apps you decide to download on your smartphone. Only download apps that come through a reputable source, such as iTunes. You should be very wary of apps that you can download onto your iPhone for free; some criminals are able to tamper with popular apps and infect them with viruses or malware. These altered apps may be free to download, but they certainly carry a price.
- Practice caution with online banking. Just because your smartphone allows you to access your online banking account from anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean that you should take advantage of the convenience. Making online transactions on a public, unsecure Wi-Fi network could seriously compromise your account’s security.
Following these tips will not totally protect you from the threat of identity theft, but it is at least a start. You may also want to enable an app designed to protect your smartphone in case it is lost or stolen. For instance, Apple’s Find My iPhone app can remotely erase all of your smartphone’s data in case your phone goes missing. This could help prevent an identity thief from having a field day with your personal information.