Identity theft is a word tossed around in the news frequently. However, did you know your own smartphone could be the cause of your identity theft? Read on to find out how and what to do to prevent it.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals your personally identifiable information (PII) and uses it to impersonate you for various types of fraud. The person that steals your personally identifiable information (PII) could be a total stranger or someone you know. With everything stored online and on cell phones nowadays, your information is more at risk than ever before.
Almost everyone uses a smartphone now, and that single device is ripe for invasion because you probably have your entire life stored on it.
How a smartphone raises the risk of identity theft?
Not only do you use a smartphone to make calls and send messages to people, but you also make purchases, post on social media, and use dozens of apps to perform work or personal tasks. All this information stored on your cell phone could put you at risk of identity theft. Five ways that your smartphone could raise the risk of identity theft are:
Not securing your smartphone with a passcode or MFA
One of the worst mistakes you could make is to leave your smartphone unprotected. Unfortunately, some people choose speed in place of safety and do not secure their smartphones with some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) like FaceID or Fingerprint or a at least a passcode.
If you lose your phone or someone steals it, they could easily access all your accounts in minutes, and you will most definitely become a victim of fraud or identity theft.
Staying logged In
Another big mistake is to remain logged into banking apps or other financial accounts like credit cards. Again, if someone accesses your phone without your permission and you are logged in to these apps, they could potentially drain your accounts or make purchases using your credit cards.
Using public Wi-Fi hotspots
Using a public Wi-Fi hotspot without using a VPN or Wi-Fi condom is foolish. Hackers use man-in-the-middle attacks to intercept data on unsecured networks. So, if you connect to Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop and then access your bank account or other websites, cybercriminals could essentially steal your credentials and take over your accounts. It’s not just a scary thought; these types of attacks happen every day.
Robocalls are another way your smartphone could become a risk. Scammers use robocalls to trick you into answering the phone, giving out personal information, or saying specific words so they can use your recorded voice to access your other accounts. Some robocalls pretend to be the police, government agencies, or even large tech companies calling to help. The recording may instruct you to call back immediately to address some problem. They use scare tactics and social engineering to trap victims.
Phishing is a big problem in the U.S. Bad actors send you a text message that claims to be someone you know, a company looking for your participation in a survey, or some other ruse to get you to click a link. Once you do, you are taken to a malicious website where your device is infected with malware, or you log into a fake website (that looks like a well-known brand) and enter your login credentials into a hacker-owned form.
How to stay safe from identity theft
These are just a few ways identity thieves could use your smartphone for identity theft or fraud. Thankfully, you can take steps to protect yourself. Some tips to stay safe include:
- Always secure your cell phone with a passcode, long password, or even better biometrics like FaceID and fingerprint.
- Always log out of financial apps unless you have them set up with MFA.
- Never log onto public Wi-Fi networks without using a VPN. Even then, if you can, wait to log onto financial accounts until you get back home.
- Never answer a robocall. Let any call that you don’t recognize go to voicemail. You can use a reverse phone lookup to identify who called you to weed out the scammers.
- Never click on links in email or SMT text messages. Watch out for links in social media ads as well.
- Turn on MFA or two-factor authentication (2FA) with all your accounts and apps. That way, if anyone gains access to your credentials, they cannot get into your accounts without your smartphone.
It’s okay to store your entire personal life on your smartphone. Just be sure to take all the necessary precautions to stay safe and secure and protect yourself from fraud. It’s much easier to prevent identity theft than it is to clean up afterward.
Author bio: Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.