According to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, 16.6 million U.S. residents ages 16 and older have been the victims of identity theft at least once. But there’s more bad news.
On average, those whose personal information was misused lost, on average, $9,650. While anyone can be vulnerable to identity theft and fraud, there are ways to protect yourself to decrease your chances of being a victim. For starters, look at your smartphone. Could it be the reason you’ve fallen victim to identity theft? Here’s what to know before you turn on your smartphone to check your bank balance.
Log Out of Apps
Smartphones are full of apps with your financial details from your checking account balance to retirement investments. Leaving yourself logged in means anyone who swipes your phone has all of your account details. But it’s not just banking apps that can leave you susceptible to identity theft. Apps for Facebook, Twitter and email can reveal personal information like your address, potential passwords or hints like your pets’ names or family’s birth dates. All of this valuable information can be used to compromise your identity or guess passwords. As a precaution, there are ways to remotely wipe your data in the event your phone is lost or stolen.
Don’t Use Obvious Passwords
Logging out of your smartphone apps isn’t always enough to safeguard your identity. Using obvious passwords like the name of your college mascot, children’s names or favorite vacation destinations can also leave you vulnerable. And according to some reports, 55 percent of Internet users pick the same password for every account login. Using a universal password may make things easier for you to remember, but gives an identity thief full access to all of your accounts once your single password is hacked. A site like IdentitySafe.Norton.com can help find a difficult password with a strong mix of numbers, punctuation and characters.
However, using easy passwords may be better than no password at all. Sixty-two percent of smartphone users don’t password protect their devices at all. Give your smartphone an extra layer of protection by picking a difficult code to use. It may be an annoyance the first few days you use it to access your phone, but will become second nature before you know it.
Mobile Wallet Privacy Concerns
Using a mobile wallet can make life easier, from buying a coffee to shopping at area retailers. It eliminates the need for carrying multiple credit cards. But easy access to your finances leaves you exceptionally vulnerable to identity theft. If you do choose to use a mobile wallet device, make sure it’s from a reputable company like PayPal or Google. Using a financial app may send your data like email, address and name directly to the developer in another country.
You can still use mobile wallets, but don’t leave them to chance for theft, even if you are using a reputable company. According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, smartphone users are 35 percent more likely to be victims of fraud than other consumers. Read more about securing your mobile wallet here.
Automatically Logging into Any Wi-Fi Connection
Some smartphone users enable options to automatically connect to a Wi-Fi connection wherever they go. This can lower your overall data usage costs and bills. And some people even make calls through Wi-Fi. A hacker with appropriate software can easily get into your phone and access all kinds of information. Instead, only use password protected wireless hotspots.