Be as Smart as Your Phone: Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

December 6, 2012
By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Manager

Consumers with smartphones spend a lot of time with their device of choice. Now, with so many flashy websites and applications (apps), it’s just as easy to spend or move a lot of money through our phones.  But are you taking steps to protect your identity through your Smartphone? The Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs developed tips to help you protect your identity at a time when many of us are using our phones to do our banking, pay our bills, or buy products with the click of a button.  Here are 10 tips from Consumer Affairs on avoiding identity theft on your smartphone:

1. If you’re going to shop or bank online, use a secure network.

Free WiFi access points are helpful for everyday use, but your information is always less safe on a public network.

2. Lock your phone.

Around 25 percent of consumers will lose their phone. Yes, punching in or swiping your finger over a few digits takes a second or two from your day, but if (or when) you lose your phone at least the front door to your information will be locked.

3. Set up a voicemail password.

Even if you’re wise with information, someone calling you might not be. Keep your conversations private by protecting your voicemail.

4. If your phone is lost or stolen, contact your carrier immediately.

They can quickly cut off your service and might be able to locate your phone.

5. Get an app that deletes your phone’s information remotely.

Even with a lock in place, criminals can often find a way to get your information. There are many apps available that can erase most of the information from your phone. But never download apps from unknown sources. Make sure you buy from legitimate companies.

6. Never store financial information on your cell phone, especially logins, passwords or account numbers.

This is especially true if you use a mobile banking app. If you have all of your information saved so you can use it quickly, and you lose your phone, someone else can do the same. Never save your account numbers, Social Security number, or PIN numbers on your phone.

7. Never text message any financial information.

Text messages are not secure in general. Plus, your texts are saved on your phone. One look at your text message logs and your information is gone.

8. Watch for traps from unknown email links or unfamiliar callers

Never click on an email link if you’re not certain who it’s from. Similarly, don’t give out personal information over the phone unless you’re certain who’s on the line. Thieves even use caller ID spoofing, where your phone might show a call is from someone you know when in fact it’s from a stranger. They might use your false sense of security and trick you into giving up your information.

9. Check your accounts often for suspicious activity.

Every few days check your balances. Make sure you recognize every transaction. Call your bank or credit card company right away if anything is out of order.

10. Teach your kids.

Young people are comfortable sharing information through their phones. It’s their way of life. However, this simply cannot include financial information. When they get their first bank account or credit card, make sure they know the dangers.

For more information on consumer topics visit http://dca.lacounty.gov and follow them on twitter.

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