Tips to protect data on that smartphone under your tree


Protect your data. Pay attention to settings and safe disposal practices.


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.

Almost 80 percent of Americans own smartphones, according to reports from the U.S. General Services Administration, and cybercriminals are out to exploit them.

Even if this is not your first smartphone, you’ll want to follow these safety tips:

  • 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
  • Voicemails
  • 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.

This loss control information is advisory only. The authors assume no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.

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