Every day you add more and more information to your phone. Every day it becomes a more complete digital representation of you. Bank accounts, the PayPal app, even password managers — they’re all there, along with social media accounts, photos… the list goes on.
The implication is clear. Your phone poses a huge risk to your privacy and your identity. Once stolen, a phone can be mined for data which can then be used to steal your identity, making you a victim of ID fraud.
Protect your smartphone from theft
The first step in minimizing identity theft through your smartphone is to make it difficult to steal.
To start with, don’t leave a phone in plain sight in your car† Instead, use a glove compartment or slide it under a seat. Then if the phone is out of sight, it’s not a target. The same goes for any device that stores personally identifiable information.
Keep your phone out of sight on the street. Don’t wave it around; put it in the inside pocket of your jacket. Otherwise, keep it in a secure pocket in your purse, carried securely. Use hands-free Bluetooth earbuds to avoid having to remove the phone to make or receive calls.
You should also be aware of the tactics of street criminals when it comes to stealing phones. They have different tactics to settle into your personal space and help themselves to your belongings. Main examples:
They ask you for the time. While your first reaction would be to get your phone out to check, doing so carries the risk. So instead identify a clock that you see from your location or keep moving without reacting.
You are addressed in a busy place. This can happen without even realizing it. An important example is a moment in a subway where people get on and off, dozens of them all passing at once. It’s an excellent opportunity, so keep your phone out of sight.
While many of these practices are perfectly obvious, it’s critical to keep them in mind.
Protect your smartphone secrets
Next, you need to make sure that if your phone is stolen, it doesn’t reveal anything for an identity thief to use. Various tools and apps can keep your phone from revealing your secrets.
1. Encrypt your phone
Use your phone’s full disk encryption option to ensure that data cannot be accessed without proper authentication. All mobile platforms have an encryption option, so take the time to find out how to activate it. Please note that the data cannot be retrieved after it has been encrypted if you forget the phone’s password.
2. Secure Authentication
Most phones offer facial recognition, a fingerprint scanner or the ability to enter a secure password. Avoid four-digit PINs and shapes, as they leave a grease mark on the screen that can crack the code. For convenience and reliability, fingerprint or fingerprint security has proven to be the most effective.
3. Use an app lock tool
If your phone is stolen and accessed, some apps (such as contacts, email, cloud drives, and social networks) will release your secrets as soon as they launch. You can set individual passwords for sensitive apps that have an app lock installed. You’ve probably realized that this can be inconvenient in some scenarios, but overall it’s a good security option.
4. Install an anti-theft app
Tools that detect a change in conditions can trigger a theft alarm. For example, if a phone is unplugged, moved, or if the SIM card is changed without authorization, an alarm may go off. Such apps usually have the option to disable the alarm or even send it silently, alerting a nominated contact (or all) that the phone has been stolen.
5. Find and wipe a stolen phone
Find My Device on Android and Find My for iPhone can be used to remotely wipe a stolen phone. Apps such as Cerberus and Prey can also do this and photograph the perpetrator with the phone’s camera. You can destroy the data remotely via a web app if your phone is stolen.
All these tools can be used to protect your phone from unauthorized access. If you are hesitant to use any of them, by all means use disk encryption and your platform’s phone discovery service.
Beware of Identity Theft of Phone Accounts
A very different type of identity theft surrounds the use of cell phones. Phone account identity theft occurs when a cell phone is purchased in your name without your knowledge. You may have been the victim of this, or your address may have been used with someone else’s name. This is a common tactic to take advantage of superior credit and get financing to buy a phone.
Phone account fraud takes place by stealing a victim’s identity in two ways:
- Dark websites with databases full of stolen account details are visited, details bought and then used to buy a phone, with the bills all charged to the victim.
- Phishing can be used to trick the victim into revealing personal information needed to open an account. These are then taken to a smartphone store, accompanied by a fake ID and a purchased phone.
You should be able to spot this type of identity theft quickly. When the billing statement arrives, contact the mobile phone network and report the contract as fraudulent.
Protect your identity from theft – secure your phone
With so much of your personal data in your pocket, it makes sense to understand the risks and take precautions to keep your phone secure.
It should be clear by now that protecting your phone is a critical step in the fight against identity theft. So follow these steps to make sure it never disappears from your sight, remains completely secure from unauthorized access, and doesn’t leak your data to identity thieves.