Walking down the street, standing in an elevator, waiting in line, relaxing on the couch, gathered at a business meeting – our smartphones are with us. Sixty-four percent of Americans have smartphones – a figure that’s nearly doubled since 2011. They’ve changed the way we do business, live our lives, and stay entertained. Whether it’s communicating with friends, watching movies, uploading a photo to social media, or paying a bill, all of the things that make our smartphones helpful also make them a perfect tool for an identity thief trying to steal your valuable personal data.
It can often be harder to identify identity theft scams on a smartphone. For all of the security features that most major smartphones have in place, e-mail messages, text messages, and voice calls can all be easily manipulated to make them appear like they are coming from known sources. “Vishing”, a cousin to the more common e-mail phishing, has become increasingly common in the age of VoIP technologies that allow fraudulent callers to mask their name and phone number in an attempt to solicit personal information. Additionally, the amount of valuable data they can store and the sheer ease to which the device can be lost, make smartphones particularly tricky companions.
Smartphones will continue to be integral parts of our day to day lives. A few simple precautions can help minimize the risk of identity theft while still allowing them to be helpful, enjoyable accessories in this digital age:
Take advantage of all available security features. At the minimum, utilize the pin code or password lock on the home screen. Some smartphones have security options that allow your unique thumbprint to unlock them.
Keep your operating system up to date. Smartphone manufactures are consistently updating the security features to combat new viruses and malware that can exploit weakness and flaws in the smartphone’s programming. Update your phone’s settings so that these updates happen automatically.
Use public WiFi cautiously. Whenever logging onto an unknown network, take note of alerts about the level of security available. Deactivate any setting that automatically connects you to accessible WiFi networks. If you must use an unsecured network, do not share any financial or personal data. Using a 3G or a 4G network is almost always better – especially if you’re completing any kind of financial transaction.
Don’t Autofill. Keep your passwords more secure by turning off any features that remember your usernames and passwords.
Be especially vigilant with texts and calls. Always approach text messages and voice calls with some skepticism. Avoid any SMS that requests you click a link (especially a shortlink like “h82.ly/789s”) since these often direct your phone to websites where malicious software can be installed automatically. Never supply personal information over a call (or email or text for that matter). If the caller claims to be from an institution requesting personal data, say that you will call back on an official customer service number found on their website.
Keep it in a safe place. Don’t leave your phone on tables or easily accessibly in a bag. When traveling, make sure that the phone is locked up if you leave it in the hotel room.
Activate find and delete features. Most smartphones have features that allow you to remotely wipe all of their data in the event that they’ve been lost or stolen.
Our identity monitoring program – Alumni ID Recovery – provides an additional layer of security by monitoring your valuable personal information among millions of data points, alerting you at the first sign of suspicious activity so you can take quick action and avoid serious damage. If you do fall victim to identity theft, our full service resolution team will work on your behalf to restore your identity.