You aren't the only one who loves your smartphone. Criminals are also lusting after it. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón stated that 1.6 million smartphones were stolen nationally in 2012, according to SFGate. It probably shouldn't be surprising that something as expensive as a smartphone is such a popular target for thieves. Unfortunately, a stolen phone is often just the beginning of your woes. Many criminals are also interested in the financial and personal information that you have stored on your phone. With this type of data, criminals can take over your financial accounts or even steal your identity.
Of course, enterprising criminals don't need to steal your phone to access the private information it contains. Many identity thieves and criminals are adept at stealing information from your phone without even snatching your physical unit. To protect your data and your smartphone, the following are steps that experts recommend you should take to safeguard your mobile device.
When researching smartphones to purchase, check to see if the one you are interested in comes with an app that will help you find it if it is ever lost or stolen. BlackBerry phones, for example, have a feature built into their operating systems known as BlackBerry Protect that will help you track your lost or stolen phone. Even if your phone is on silent, this handy app is designed to cause your BlackBerry to ring loudly to help you locate it. In addition, you can use BlackBerry Protect to lock your smartphone so criminals can't access your important information.
If you are getting a smartphone that doesn't come with this type of protection built into its’ system, you should look for an app that works in a similar fashion for your device.
Really a simple idea, right? But it's surprising how many people don't lock their phones. If your phone is lost or stolen, it would take a criminal only a second to access all of your personal information, photos and contacts. Even if your unprotected smartphone isn't stolen, an opportunistic identity thief could very easily access and take your info if you should, say, leave your device on your desk while at lunch.
Most apps make your life much easier. However, a few can contain malware — malicious software or codes designed to damage or take control of your smartphone. Over the past several years, there have been a number of cases where users unwittingly downloaded malware-laden apps. In an article about this problem, Computerworld.com warned smartphone owners to be very cautious when downloading apps and to be suspicious of any applications asking for unusual permissions, such as the ability to modify your browser. They could be malware-laden apps.
Cell phone thefts, especially in big cities have been on the rise. According to Washington, D.C. police estimates reported by WAMU 88.5, more than 60 percent of the city's recent robberies involved the theft of cell phones. In some cases, brazen thieves have been stealing the phones right out of the hands of Metro train passengers and then fleeing out of open doors at train stops. There have also been a number of reports recently of phones being stolen from people as they talked on them.
Police in big cities throughout the U.S. have been cautioning people to be aware of their surroundings instead of focusing on their screens. They advise that you should keep an eye out for anyone acting suspicious around you and to not use your device or leave it where it could be easily snatched, especially if you are sitting by the door of a train or a bus.