If you’re like many Americans, you use your smart phone for nearly everything. Whether you’re getting directions, sending an email, or listening to music, chances are you have your phone in hand. Identity thieves are aware of how dependent on our phones we’ve become, unfortunately. A stolen smartphone may allow a thief access to your credit card numbers, email accounts, social networking accounts, and accounts with a large number of merchants.
Whether you’re traveling away from home, renting a room through Guest Door, or just running errands around your neighborhood over the weekend, it’s absolutely crucial that you keep your smartphone safe. Be aware of the following ways that a thief may be able to steal personal information, and take steps to prevent identity theft while traveling.
Free wi-fi is available everywhere from donut shops to fast food joints, and it’s incredibly tempting to take advantage of this useful perk. If you choose to access wireless internet, be sure to treat the network as a public one, and don’t do anything that would compromise your private information. This means don’t enter email or banking passwords, don’t pay bills online, don’t visit any financial websites, and don’t type anything that you wouldn’t want someone else to see. So, if you want to read the news or catch up on your weekend sports scores, that’s fine, but don’t expect to be able to do your banking or bills on your lunch break — the risk is just too great.
Stop for a moment and think about how many things you use your email account for. In today’s modern age, an email address isn’t just for sending email. It’s used to identify you at your favorite merchants online, used to log you into various sites around the internet, and used to receive sensitive information such as bank statements, receipts, and more. For this reason, your email account should have a different password than you use for any other sites, and this password should be changed regularly. Choose a secure password that’s made up of both letters and numbers, of varying cases. Keeping your email password separate from your passwords at banking and financial sites will help slow a hacker down, but may not necessarily stop them. For the best possible security, pick an email provider that offers secure encryption with an extra password. These passwords are randomly generated using a card or electronic code generator, and help ensure that only you can access your email account.
If your phone itself were to be stolen, how much personal information would the thief have about you? When you stop to think about this, it’s rather alarming. Take a few minutes to secure your phone with a passcode or locking pattern, so that it’s not quite as easy for a thief to gain access to your private information. You may also want to download a program such as Lookout, which can secure your phone from a distance. If a specific command is given online, this type of software can also wipe your phone completely, so that a thief can no longer access any of your personal information. If you regularly make purchases from your phone or work with sensitive information, this type of application may be perfect for you.
To prevent identity thieves from gaining access to your information using your phone, take steps to protect yourself. Avoid using unsecured wireless networks, and turn off the networking and bluetooth on your phone if you aren’t using them. Keep your applications and accounts password protected, and keep your phone on your person at all times. Install a lock pattern or key on your phone and use it regularly.
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