Do’s and Don’ts For Protecting Your Smartphone, Your Identity, And Your Money
Most adults—and young people—have a smartphone these days. Given their wide range of capabilities, it’s easy to understand why for so many people these small devices seem indispensable. The proliferation of apps and the ability to have internet on the go enables us to manage so many aspects of our lives literally from the palm of our hand. But even the most avid smartphone users can fail to appreciate how valuable their favorite electronic device is. It’s a small object that provides a huge window into your personal life, making the sensitive data it contains highly desirable to cyber criminals. The smart thing to do with a smartphone is safeguard the valuable information it contains - from your contacts, personal information, and emails, to your bank account and mobile wallet.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for protecting your smartphone to help ensure your identity and financial well-being remain safe and sound.
Do secure your smartphone with a passcode or authentication system
Say you unwittingly forget your phone at a restaurant or leave it at an airport charging station. Now it’s up for grabs for any unscrupulous person who would rather disrupt your life than return your lost property. Most smartphones contain built-in security protections that can be used to unlock them, like a PIN code or biometric authentication, such as your fingerprint. Securing your phone in this manner can prevent a thief from using your mobile wallet to rack up fraudulent charges.
Do be aware of identity thieves when using public Wi-Fi hotspots
Checking your Facebook account or viewing a news or entertainment site at the local coffee shop or airport lounge using the public Wi-Fi service can be a good way to avoid exceeding your monthly data limit. However, logging onto secure accounts like ecommerce sites or your banking app can put you in the crosshairs of an online identity thief. Cyber scammers can hack your device and view sensitive account information via public Wi-Fi. The preferred option is to wait until you have access to your own password-protected home Wi-Fi network to conduct these types of mobile activities or utilize a virtual private network (VPN) for your phone—either through your employer, if it’s available, or one you set up yourself.
Do follow best practices when downloading apps to your phone, especially mobile payment platforms and ecommerce apps
Before downloading any app to your phone, take a close look to make sure it matches the merchant name and check the developer credentials. Review the settings and privacy agreement on how your information will be used and what will be stored. If something seems off, do a quick Google search for more information to be sure you aren’t downloading the wrong app or an app that has reported security risks or privacy issues. Your device is a window into your world, and you don’t want that window unlocked for anyone to crawl in and poke around. Use this same diligence with mobile payment platforms. For example, peer-to-peer payment apps—like PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, or similar services available through your bank—are not meant for random Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace purchases. It pays to play it safe.
Do monitor your banking accounts
Watch your accounts closely, and when you see something out of place, contact your bank right away. Download your bank’s mobile app so you can check balances and transactions anytime, anywhere. Go a step further by enrolling in your bank’s ID theft protection service, if they offer one.
Don’t save website or app passwords on your smartphone
When you log onto a mobile payment app or ecommerce site that stores your financial account information, the site may give you the option to save your password so you can access your account more quickly next time. Don’t do it. If the information on your smartphone falls into the wrong hands, a thief will be able to steal your identity and financial information more easily.
Don’t click on suspicious links in ads, emails, or text messages
Cybercriminals use malware to commandeer smartphones and other devices to steal passwords and personal information. Some malware is capable of overlaying banking and other apps, prompting users to enter security passcodes or payment card details. While smartphones are generally safer than computers when it comes to malware, and a bank issuer can employ added security features on its own app, a bank can’t control security features of third-party browsers like mobile wallets and payment apps where a number of people manage their online accounts. In general, avoid clicking on questionable links that can potentially make your smartphone a target of cyber thieves. As an added safeguard, it’s always a good idea to install anti-virus and malware protection software onto your phone.
Don’t use a phone case that doubles as your wallet
There are many phone cases available now that include slots to hold banking cards and your driver’s license. While this is convenient when you want to carry a self-contained item that is light and slim as possible, if you ever lose your phone, you lose everything else with it. And if someone steals your phone, they’ve stolen your license and debit and credit cards as well. Reconsider and carry your phone separate from your wallet items.
Don’t sell or give away your smartphone before erasing the information on it
Simply moving your phone’s settings back to its original factory setting may not fully erase all of the information on it. There are a number of software programs that can retrieve seemingly erased content from smartphones. Check with your carrier regarding how best to delete the information on your particular phone, including personal data and stored passwords. Just be sure to back up all of the content onto your new phone before you do.
Cybercriminals are always looking for opportunities, and your phone is a valuable target, especially if you use it for banking and shopping. Take extra steps to protect your identity and financial well-being by being smart with your smartphone.