Ever since I bought my first iPhone earlier this year, I’ve been struck with how convenient it is. I can keep in contact with friends and family easily. I can check my email whenever I need to, and even conduct business no matter where I am. My smartphone even served as a boarding pass the last time I got on an airplane.
My smartphone has even made it easier for me to do my banking. Remote check deposit means that it’s been months since I’ve set foot inside my brick and mortar bank. I can quickly and easily transfer money between accounts. From shopping to investing, my smartphone provides me with the ability to do almost anything from anywhere.
But all of this information, stored on my smartphone, also makes me a little bit nervous. A great deal of my life is right there — in a device that can easily be lost or stolen.
What Information Can Identity Thieves Learn from Your Smartphone?
An identity thief can use the information found on your smartphone to impersonate you, opening accounts in your name. Consider: Your name, email address, and phone number can likely be found somewhere on your smartphone. On top of that, if you have social media apps on your phone, a fraudster with your stolen phone can learn a lot from you just by going through your Facebook and Twitter apps.
If you have your location services turned on for your photos/camera, it’s possible for someone to see where you have taken certain pictures. They might even be able to figure out where you live. If you have a GPS app with your home labeled, it’s even easier for a criminal to drive right to your house.
If you save all of your password information on your financial apps, it’s ridiculously easy for someone to use your stolen smartphone to drain your accounts. Saved credit card information on shopping apps encourages thieves to make purchases with ease. From pretending to be you and trashing your credit, to outright stealing your money, the unscrupulous can use your smartphone to financially devastate you.
Protect Your Smartphone
One of the most effective ways to protect yourself is to make sure that this information isn’t on your phone. For many consumers, though, that isn’t practical. And it defeats the purpose of having a smartphone to begin with. While you might not be able to fully protect your smartphone, there are some things you can do to make it a little more difficult for would-be thieves and identity fraudsters:
- Password protection: You can password protect your phone, slowing a thief down. Make it hard to get into your phone and access all of that information.
- Phone finder: My iPhone comes with “Find My Phone,” which I activated. This can help you locate your phone, so that you know whether you just lost it, or whether it’s been stolen.
- Remote shutdown: There are apps that allow you to remotely shutdown your phone. You can turn it off, or even erase all of the data on the phone so that it becomes little more than a paperweight.
- Don’t save passwords on apps: It’s annoying for me to have to enter my password on my banking app each time I use it, but it’s better than just letting anyone who happens to be holding my phone (and has got through the password on the lock screen) access to my bank account. Consider requiring passwords to access your more sensitive apps.
- Don’t save credit cards: Don’t keep your credit cards on file with an app.
Also, make sure you follow the same procedures you would if you lost your purse or wallet. Have a list of your credit card and bank account issuers and their numbers someplace safe so you can notify them if your phone is lost, and you are worried that your accounts might be compromised.
In many ways, you do need to treat your smartphone like your purse or wallet. After all, that’s what it’s starting to resemble.