Your smartphone carries a lot of things that an identity thief would love to have: stored passwords to online accounts, banking information, email addresses and phone numbers. How can you make sure your phone's private data stays private? Adam Levin, co-founder of the Identity Theft 911 website and former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, offers these tips:
- Lock your phone with a password. It's the most basic security step, but one that some people skip. Yes, a hacker could break in anyway, but they may not want to bother. "Most bad guys will simply move on to the next — easier — target," Levin noted. "It's a lot easier for a thief to steal a smartphone with no password than it is to work on cracking your phone."
- When shopping on your phone, use an application rather than your browser. Most major retail sites offer dedicated shopping applications that help shield you from fraudulent phishing sites and other scammer tricks, Levin said.
- Log out. When you're done checking your credit card balance or checking account, be sure to sign out. "And never click the box asking the app to save your user ID or password," Levin suggested.
- Connect to Wi-Fi only when you need it. Turn off the feature on your phone (or laptop or tablet) that automatically connects you to any nearby Wi-Fi network, Levin recommended. If you don't, "hackers with the right software can easily hack your phone." And close your Bluetooth connection when you're done.
- Delete all personal data before selling or donating your old phone. Look in the settings for an option to "erase all content," "factory data reset" or something similar.