Ten years ago, nobody knew what a smartphone was. There were no angry birds of which to speak, and Siri was nothing more than a gleam in some developer’s eye. Fast forward to 2014, and mobile devices are ubiquitous. It seems that everyone is walking around with an iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle or other handheld computing mechanism, and not surprisingly, these technological marvels have become supreme targets for thieves. If you want to protect your property and your personal information, you’ll need to take a proactive approach.
Keep Your Phone at Your Side
Approximately 1.6 million mobile phones were stolen in the U.S. in 2012, according to Consumer Reports. That number increased in 2013. It’s imperative that you keep your smartphone close at hand at all times, and never leave it out in the open. Mobile devices are very popular targets for burglars, so if you charge your phone at night, keep it near your bedside, and don’t leave it another room or downstairs. If you find yourself in a busy social setting, don’t set your phone on a table or counter and assume that no one will take it.
Install GPS Apps
Androids, iPhones and popular tablets can all be equipped with apps that enable you to locate, lock and even wipe your phone in the event of theft. Take a few moments to download some security apps onto your phone, and prepare yourself for any eventuality – no matter how unlikely. If a theft does occur, you won’t have your personal information compromised, and you may even be able to locate the device.
Password Protect Your Phone
Did you know that you can input a custom password or passcode that prevents other people from accessing your Home screen? Yeah, it can get a bit annoying when you have to constantly punch in that four-digit code every time you wake up your phone, but if your device is ever stolen, you’ll be glad you opted for the inconvenience. You can create and update your password using your Settings application, and you can even customize it so that the password is only required after 1 minutes, 5 minutes or even an hour of inactivity. For security reasons, try setting it for 5 minutes or less.
Don’t Share Personal Information Over Public Wi-Fi
It’s not just the phone itself that thieves are after. You may have your personal information compromised and stolen without the phone or tablet ever leaving your hand. Passwords, credit card numbers, banking information – savvy criminals can intercept this information by monitoring your activity over a public Wi-Fi network. So next time you’re at Starbucks or the local library to surf the Web, don’t enter any personal information. You never know who’s watching.
Don’t Jailbreak or Unlock your Device
We all want to break free from the shackles of “the man,” but there are serious security risks associated with jailbreaking a phone or tablet. Without the general system restrictions in place, you leave yourself vulnerable to malfunctions, viruses and even spyware. Cyber-thieves will use any vulnerabilities to their advantage, so don’t give them the opportunity.
After a Theft
So what if the unthinkable happens? You turn around to find out that your phone has already been stolen, and the perpetrator is nowhere in sight. First, you need to stop what you’re doing and contact your carrier, be it AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or anyone else. Let them know of the theft so that no additional charges may incur on your account. If you have any remote tracking or locking apps installed on your phone, make use of them right away. By 2015, all mobile devices will be equipped with an optional “kill switch,” which allows users to automatically lock and erase their device in the event of theft, but until then, we all need to be diligent about making these preparations ourselves.
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