1. Money

Cell Phone Safety

Identity Theft and Cell Phone Security

By

Cell Phone Safety

Cell phone safety begins with physical security.

Getty/Image Source

Almost half of us expect our online purchases to increase this holiday. Quite a few of us expect our social networking (Facebook, etc.) to increase as well. These are just a few of the wonderful facts Norton sent me for Christmas, an inbox present if you will. The fact is we all love to use our phones to keep in touch with friends and family, and social media has made that even easier. But most of us (again, according to the study) don’t think about cell phone safety – especially those of us with smart phones.

Who is Listening?

The neat thing about a smart phone is that it can connect automatically to an open Wi-Fi network, as long as you have connected to it before. This gives you breakneck speeds to check your bank account, watch eBay auctions, browse Craig’s List, or update your Facebook status.

The obvious problem is you have no idea who may be on a network listening to traffic if it is open and free to access for everyone. Identity thieves will use these to snitch credit card information, or just user names and passwords, to start an attack on someone’s life. They rely on statistics that say most people do not change passwords, and use the same password to access everything. If they know your e-mail password and your user a ID for your bank, statistically speaking they can get your money.

The safest course of action is to know what information to protect. Never enter this sensitive data if you are on a public network. (If you want to know if you are on a public a Wi-FI network, chances are good there is an app for that – check your market, i-store, or whatever. You may also look for Norton DNS, a free tool that checks to see if a site is phishing for your personal information.)

“Shred” Your Cell Phone’s Data

Even more obvious is physical security. If someone gets your smart phone, they have a 50/50 chance that you don’t use a password on your phone. And, of course, to save us from all that typing, we let our cell phone store passwords for us, so all we have to do is push the login button.

If your cell phone happens to be stolen, there are a lot of headaches that come with it. Turning it off and getting it replaced are just the tip of the iceberg. All of the information on the phone is still valuable to an identity thief. To address that issue, cell phone security applications are creeping up all over the place. These allow you to log into a computer and digitally “shred” your phones data. In most instances, this means it will erase the data from your cell phone, but the word “shred” has become a buzzword among privacy advocates. It seems to have become popular with the marketing folks as well. (It’s hard to tell if it is just a fad, like “groovy” or “keep on truckin”, or if it will become standard vocabulary in our daily lives…stay tuned for updates.)

Crossing Social Media Boundaries

If you spend any time with social media, (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) You have probably found that you can “check-in” somewhere to let all your friends know what you’re up to, and maybe even stop by for coffee. But if your security settings on the social networks are not set properly, you could just as easily be telling robbers that your house is vacant right now, which they will find most helpful when they clean you out. Sometimes, they will come back in a couple of months, to get this stuff you bought with the insurance money, too. Occasionally, they will look for important documents to commit identity theft. All told, checking-in may be one of the most reckless cell phone safety errors we can commit.

In fact, some consumer advocates even suggest GPS location information should be protected as personal information.

As an extra holiday tip, the Norton article also suggested using a single card for all your online shopping. That way, if it is stolen, it is the only one stolen. Personally, I prefer a virtual card that I can cancel when I’m done shopping. But either practice will help to protect you from financial identity theft, and might even keep your holiday seasons merry and bright.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.