If you are among the millions unwrapping a slick new smartphone this holiday season, you’ll want to take steps to protect it and your privacy.
The Federal Communications Commission reports that more than half of all Americans have smartphones, and 20 percent have been the victims of mobile cybercrime. The FCC warns that mobile security threats have increased more than 350 percent since 2010. Even if this is not your first smartphone, you’ll want to follow these safety tips from the FCC:
- Set PINs and passwords
- Do not modify or alter your smartphone’s security settings
- Back up and secure your data
- Install apps ONLY from trusted sources
- Understand app permissions before accepting them
- Install security apps that enable remote location and wiping
- Accept updates and patches to your smartphone’s software
- Be smart on open Wi-Fi networks; take extra care to secure your data
- Report a stolen smartphone to your wireless provider and to local law enforcement
Many homeowner policies would cover a lost or stolen smartphone, but your policy deductible may be higher than the value of the device. Some wireless providers offer extended warranty programs that cover loss or theft as well as malfunction. Check with your insurance agent or cell carrier for additional information.
Before donating, reselling or recycling your old smartphone, follow these precautions recommended by the Federal Trade Commission:
- Perform a hard reset, sometimes called a factory reset. You may be able to save or transfer the information to your new device before deleting data from your old one. For detailed instructions on how to wipe your old phone, check your owner’s manual or the website of your mobile provider or the device manufacturer.
- Remove or erase SIM cards and SD cards as well as the device’s internal memory. If you’re keeping the same phone number, ask the mobile provider about transferring your SIM card and SD cards to the new device. These cards may contain and retain private information about you and your contacts.
Once you’ve deleted your personal information, double-check your phone to make sure the following additional information has been deleted. Check your device’s:
- Phone book
- Phone logs
- Voice mails
- Sent and received emails and text messages
- Downloads and other folders
- Search histories
- Personal photos
- Stored apps and associated data, such as passwords
Finally, to prevent unwanted marketing calls on your new phone, you may want to list your number on the National Do Not Call Registry.