Mobile Identity Theft Threats and Prevention Tips
One of the fastest growing types of identity theft is mobile identity theft due to the prevalence of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. With over 1 billion smartphones being used worldwide and research predicting this number will double by 2015, the soaring sales of mobile devices come at a time when identity theft is at an all-time high.
According to Javelin Strategy and Research’s 2012 Identity Fraud Report, there was one victim of identity theft every three seconds in the U.S. in 2012, totaling 12.6 million consumers—an increase of over one million victims compared to the previous year and accounting for more than $21 billion. These numbers are expected to increase, especially as our use of mobile devices continues to rise.
Preventing Mobile Identity Theft
Whether it’s for surfing the web, email, instant messaging, paying bills, banking, or shopping online, we share and store a huge amount of personal data on our mobile devices. Unless steps are taken to safeguard it, this data is vulnerable to identity thieves who want to use it to create fake identities and steal money.
Other than being convenient to use everywhere we go, smartphones are really no different than laptops or desktop computers when it comes to viruses, spyware, malware, and hackers. Their mobile browsers and apps allow us to store personal information such as contacts, passwords, bank account data, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information. However, when this data is breached the resulting identity theft can have severe and long-lasting consequences.
Fortunately, there are many actions you can take to protect your hand-held devices from mobile identity theft. Here are a few tips:
- Create and require a strong password to unlock your phone and access data. Set up your mobile phone to automatically lock when it has not been used for a specific period of time.
- Keep your apps and operating system current. These updates are important for keeping your tablet or smartphone up-to-date with all of the latest security improvements.
- Make sure you are shopping on secure websites by verifying that the “s” is in the “https://” in the address bar. Websites using “http://” at the beginning of the website address are unsecure.
- Never share sensitive data such as credit card numbers or passwords over a Wi-Fi connection that is unsecure. Using a public Wi-Fi network to make an online purchase can give a nearby hacker the opportunity to steal your data as you shop and use it to create a fake identity.
- Review your phone bills for sudden increases in data usage. Be on the lookout for charges from third-party content providers for apps and services you have not authorized. These can be signs that your phone has been hacked and puts you at risk for mobile identity theft.
Mobile Identity Theft and Professional Offices
When businesses and professionals use mobile devices to share information with clients, the same types of mobile identity theft are possible. Take, for example, healthcare professionals. An ABA Health survey revealed that over 80 percent of physicians polled have used personal mobile devices to access the protected health information (PHI) of their patients. This puts their patients at risk for mobile medical identity theft even when patients haven’t done anything to put their own identity in jeopardy.
Healthcare professionals can help secure their patients’ medical records on mobile devices by creating passwords to authenticate access to data, and never sharing information over a Wi-Fi connection that is unsecure.
Mobile Identity Theft Prevention Services
In spite of all the safeguards you put in place, hackers will always try to stay one step ahead of you and technology. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” your identity will be compromised. When it happens to you, don’t be caught without a mobile identity theft protection plan.
There are several free mobile identity theft services available, such as AVG, that offer anti-virus plans for mobile devices. Phones can be locked and located remotely, widgets can detect questionable website activity, and suspicious calls or text messages can be blocked.
One of the best identity theft prevention services on the market is ID Theft Solutions. The company is managed by law enforcement professionals, and is simply the most comprehensive way to ensure your identity is recovered when it is stolen.