07 April 2013
Get Smart about Smart Phones: Protect Your Information

Today’s smart phones do much more than place a call. They’re mini-computers that can equip you to access the web, send emails, make bill payments and find the nearest gas station.

If you can do it on a desktop or a laptop, chances are you can do it on a smart phone. The problem is, smart phones can be stolen, lost or damaged.

Ever had that sinking feeling when you realize your smart phone isn’t where it’s supposed to be? You didn’t just lose an expensive communications tool, you probably lost a lot of information that can be used against you.

Often, the real disaster isn’t the loss of the device itself, though that’s a pain. The real tragedy is in the loss of personal information, and sensitive information, that can be used to steal your identity.

Think it can’t happen to you? Think again.

  • According to Asurion™, which provides insurance for cell phones and other digital devices, 25% of smart phones are stolen, lost or damaged beyond repair each year.1 This means you have a one in four chance of losing your smart phone and all of the personal information it contains — not good odds considering the risks associated with the loss.
  • USA Today reports that smart phone theft and loss cost owners $30 billion each year in lost productivity, identity fraud and long-distance calls half-way around the world.2
  • Mobile phone theft has increased 25% in just three years.3 Why? Because smart phones are expensive, they’re loaded with personal and business information, and they slip into a pocket without notice. You don’t have to be a smart thief to steal a smart phone.

Losing a smart phone is serious, but there are things you can do to lessen the pain of running over your smart phone with the lawn mower.

Prepare to lose your smart phone. If it never happens, great. If it does, you’re prepared. The key to softening the loss of a smart phone is in preparation – setting up your smart phone so it’s useless to thieves and other bad guys.

Add password protection to open your smart phone. This requires thieves to find the key to unlock the functions and information stored on the phone.

  • Avoid obvious passwords. A smart phone can be stolen by someone who knows your pet’s name and your birthday. Add numbers and symbols to bulk up your smart phone password.
  • Never store your password in the same place you store your smart phone. Keep both in your purse, and you give the smart phone keys to the crook who just stole it.
  • Never give out your password, even to trusted family and friends. You just never know.
  • Lock your smart phone each time you use it. Don’t open it in the morning and keep it open throughout the workday. That defeats the whole purpose of password protection.
  • Finally, think about your smart phone as a valuable asset, like a wallet. Peace of mind is always knowing where your smart phone is.

Add an “I’m lost” app. If you leave your phone at the supermarket or client’s office, make it easy for finders to get your smart phone back to you.  Some smart phones enable you to configure a screen lock display that provides a telephone number to contact you to pick up your lost smart phone. Or, you can download an app (some free) that automatically displays your contact information when you call the smart phone.

Record your smart phone’s identification number. Each smart phone has a unique signature number to identify it from all other smart phones. Your smart phone number is usually in the literature that comes with your unit. You may also be able to access it on screen after providing a password.

Record this number and keep it someplace safe. Report the number to  law enforcement and to your carrier if your phone is lost or stolen. This helps the police track and find the unit, and it enables your carrier to shut down the account before too much damage is done.

Add a GPS app to your smart phone so you can track it, but don’t display the GPS app icon on the smart phone screen.  If you do, the thief can easily spot it and turn it off.

Back up all smart phone information. Upload it to your computer, or use “cloud” computing services to keep stored data available if your smart phone goes missing.  Then, you can quickly close the old account,  replace the smart phone, create a new password and download all your contacts, Internet bookmarks, reports, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

Consider smart phone insurance. Some insurers provide coverage against smart phone theft, loss or damage. Is it worth the cost of the annual premium? Only you can decide.  Go with a reputable, brand-name insurer. Read the coverage limits carefully. The policy may provide for the purchase of a new smart phone, but it won’t replace the cost of your personal information.

Whether or not you decide to purchase insurance, take the steps outlined above to protect against that awful feeling you get when you realize your smart phone isn’t there.

 

  1. www.asurion.com/about/news-and-event/175-buying-a-smartphone-this-holiday-learn-how-to-protect-the-device-and-the-data
  1. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-03-22/lost-phones/53707448/1
  1. www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/9663807/Mobile-phone-theft-rises-by-25pc-in-three-years.html

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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