How to prevent smartphone identity theft

Identity theft and fraud can strike through any consumer-ready digital device, and smartphones are no exception. Once a fraudster has access to your personal information, they could impersonate you for many reasons, including gaining access to a range of services, from your bank accounts to credit cards. This could result in financial loss or other troubles for you.

You may find it useful to manage your personal financial and email accounts – as well as other sensitive information – on your smartphone. If this is the case, you should take proactive steps to lessen the chances of having your identity stolen. Some of these include the following:

  • Check regularly that all your software and apps are updated
    Software and app updates often include security improvements. Ensuring that these are up to date means having the latest protective measures installed on those programmes.
  • Make sure that you download apps from reputable companies
    Watch out in particular for free versions of well-known apps, or alternatives that seem similar to apps by established companies. These could be cheaper, but could potentially be used to collect personal information from you without your consent.
  • Think twice before jailbreaking your phone
    Jailbreaking involves unlocking your phone so that you can run unauthorised software on it. While there maybe benefits to this, such as accessing programmes that you need, be aware of the risks. Bypassing the software limitations on your smartphone also puts it at the risk of being infected by malware.
  • Lock your SIM card
    Protect your smartphone by locking it with a PIN number that’s only known to you. This will help to deter anyone from being able to access the personal information that’s on the phone.
  • Check if your phone has a ‘kill switch’
    You may want to choose a smartphone that allows you to shut it down remotely with a 'kill switch'. This is useful for protecting your personal information if your phone is lost or stolen. You may be required to opt in to set up this function, so do your homework.
  • Find your phone
    You can also opt for a phone that allows you to locate it remotely, in case you’ve misplaced it. This could help you to retrieve it so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of identity thieves (or thieves in general).
  • Keep copies of important files
    Back up sensitive information that you store on your smartphone elsewhere, like on another digital device, print it out. Be careful to ensure that those copies are secure too, though.
  • Use secure connections
    If you’re browsing the internet, using apps or checking your email, make sure that you’re on a secure connection when online using your smartphone. Ways to do this include signing on to a secure wireless network or a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Be careful when using public Wi-Fi, and make sure that any Bluetooth options are turned off if you don’t have to use it.
  • Check for security settings
    If you’re accessing or transmitting personal data on your phone, ensure that the websites that you’re on have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption installed. You can check if a web address has been secured by noting whether it starts with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’.
  • Be careful when clicking on links
    Links aren’t always what they seem, so make sure that you know where they lead to. Be wary of links sent to you from unknown or suspicious email addresses.

Use your smartphone wisely by taking measures to try to prevent having your identity stolen. In some cases, though, you may not be able to protect yourself from identity theft.

To ensure that you know if your financial information has been compromised, you can sign up to your Equifax Credit Report & Score. Free for the first 30 days then £14.95 monthly, it sends you alerts if your financial details are posted on websites popular with fraudsters, and notifies you of any significant changes to your credit report.

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