With many of you sporting new smart phones you found under the Christmas tree, it’s a good time to go over some useful safety tips to make sure you don’t make sensitive information visible to someone who shouldn’t be seeing it.
Since so many people have been using smart phones for years, for many the new phone this year is not the first one. If you are in that position, you should take some steps to make sure your old phone doesn’t come back to haunt you.
Wipe any personal information off of your old phone. A story from a Philadelphia ABC affiliate in December advises that it’s important to get rid of any financial documents, photos and anything else that can identify you on your old phone. In fact, it’s important to do that on any electronic device, such as a tablet or a computer. If you don’t know how, it’s probably easy to find out by doing a simple search online.
For your new devices, ConsumerReports.org urges you to set up a strong pass code. If you can, and that depends on the device, use some of the same strategies you’re advised to use on email passwords. Use longer passwords with at least one number and a symbol. The consumer organization also encourages users to be cautious about apps they download, making sure they are not installing an imposter of a reputable app.
Be cautious about using insecure Wi-Fi, particularly in public locations. Coffee shops, hotels, airports and other locations offer convenient and free Wi-Fi service, but users need to be certain an app they’re using secures the information being accessed.
Another feature to be cautious about using is location tracking. Many people purposefully indicate where they are when they post to Facebook or other social media sites. More than that, though, is the number who allow location tracking to happen on their phones as a default. Retailers are highly interested in your location, but so are thieves using spy software. If they can figure out where you are, they also know where you are not.
A Marketwatch story details some of the dangers of location tracking. “As the so-called Bling Ring proved — this was a group of teen robbers who stole from celebrities like Paris Hilton and Audrina Patridge by checking their social media profiles to see when they weren’t home — criminals can use your whereabouts to rob you. What’s more, there are programs that make discovering your whereabouts from social media easier than ever. Information like this could be used by criminals (to map out your routines to determine when to commit a crime against you) or the cops or your employer (to prove where you were at a certain time), experts say.”
If you find you have had information taken and you’ve seen fraud committed against you, submit an Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit to the Federal Trade Commission. It’s better yet to do all you can to prevent that from happening by securing your electronic information.