Cell Phone Financial Identity Theft

USA Today reported in March 2012 that Americans lost $30 billion worth of mobile phones last year.

While the cell phone is an amazingly useful device, using it for banking — and consumers are increasingly using mobile phones as banking tools — can lead to identity theft and other financial crimes, if reasonable precautions aren’t taken.

“Anyone who has access to your cell phone has access to your identity in a few clicks,” says Elizabeth Baker, an assistant professor at Wake Forest University and an expert in information system security issues. “Often, credit card companies limit your financial responsibility if your card is stolen and fraud is committed. This is not true for your checking and savings bank accounts. Money fraudulently withdrawn can be costly.”

Baker offers the following tips for protecting yourself from mobile financial theft.

Never store financial information on your cell phone – logins, passwords, account numbers, Social Security numbers, etc. – not even in a mobile banking app. If you lose your phone, whoever finds it has immediate access to your account if your login credentials are stored. A thief can use the app and get your account info to withdraw your money. Big hazard.

Never text message any financial information from your cell phone. Text messages are not secure modes of communication, and all of the texts that you send are logged in your phone. A hacker or thief could access your phone and the text message logs to easily find your financial information.

Lock your phone or have a way to delete the information on your phone remotely. According to a survey last year by data security firm Sophos, 22 percent of respondents have lost their phones, while 70 percent didn't use password protection. Use a password.

Check your accounts frequently for suspicious activity. Every few days, if not everyday, you should check on your money. Since you will be the one without the money and with scarce opportunity to get any restitution, it is important to be on top of the account to make sure that nothing unexpected is happening.

Teenagers and young adults are particularly vulnerable to mobile identity theft because they are comfortable sharing information through their phones, Baker says. Make sure to discuss these dangers with your teens when they open their first bank accounts and monitor their accounts regularly.


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