Like computers, cell phones contain personal information that puts the owner at risk of identity theft.
Security measures to reduce your risk
As the capabilities of cell phones and smart-phones increase, so does the risk of identity theft. Eighty-two percent of American adults own cell phones—and not just for making calls—according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Depending on the device, users are able to do everything from taking pictures to shopping and banking online.
“Essentially, today’s cell phones are small computers,” said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “And whether it’s a cell phone, smart-phone, desktop or laptop, the same security measures are recommended.”
Like computers, consumers should ensure all personal information was been properly removed from old cell phones before discarding.
BBB poses 5 questions to encourage mobile device security:
1. What are phones used for? Beyond making calls, 40 percent of Americans use the Internet, e-mail or instant messenger on their phone.
2. What is stored on phones? Most phones store names, phone numbers, text messages and images. Advanced phones can also store addresses, birth dates, appointments, e-mails, documents, photos, videos, audio files, and more.
3. How can phones be compromised? Lost, stolen and hacked devices can lead to identity theft. Like computers, phones can contract viruses, sites can siphon private data, and unprotected networks can put consumers at risk.
4. How can consumers protect mobile devices? BBB offers the following tips:
· Never keep account or credit card numbers, passwords, PIN codes or Social Security numbers on portable devices. Avoid storing or messaging personal identifiers, such as birth dates or private photos—unless absolutely necessary.
· If online: Ensure the network is private and secure, consider purchasing anti-virus software for the phone, and avoid downloading from unverified sources.
· Lock it up. Set a password for your phone, voicemail box and other files, when possible. If the phone is Internet accessible, log-out of e-mail, social networking accounts and secured websites when finished.
5. What should consumers do if phones are lost, stolen or hacked? Notify their wireless carrier. If vital information is at stake, check BBB’s steps for identity theft victims by visiting bbb.org.