ANCHORAGE, Alaska—As cell phones evolve, consumer advocates and law enforcement warn that because they're now much more than phones, users are more at risk of identify theft than ever before.
We now have it all at our fingertips: Internet connections that link to lots of personal places, from banking to social networking sites.
“We're not really talking about cellphones, we're talking about computers,” said Anchorage Police Department cyber-crime investigator Sgt. Mike Couturie.
That's why Couturie is repeating a warning from the Better Business Bureau for cell-phone users to protect their identity by protecting their cell phones -- and all they contain.
“If people get information on your phone, there is a wide range of things they can do to harm you,” Couterie said. “One is steal your identity, use your name, your account numbers, your PIN codes you probably put on your cell phone in case you'd forget them -- they can get those off.”
“It's not only a risk to you, but to anyone else with information you may be storing as well,” said the BBB’s Tara Sims. “Also, making sure you log out of bank accounts and social networking sites when you're not using your phone is really important -- a lot of people keep those logged on, and if someone got into phone they could easily get into that information.”
The BBB also recommends against keeping credit card, PIN numbers, passwords or other sensitive personal information on portable devices. It also suggests avoiding storing or messaging personal information, such as birth dates, unless absolutely necessary.
Other recommendations include ensuring the phone’s network is private and secure, setting up a password for phones whenever possible, and properly disposing of cell phones.
“Just make sure you dispose of unwanted cellphones responsibly -- don't just toss them in the trash, make sure all information is erased,” Sims said. “Just taking out the SIM card will not do that; personal information can also be stored on the actual phone, you need to make sure to understand how to remove that information.”
And with the dawn of more sophisticated copiers and printers also comes more risk of information becoming available beyond the requested copies, as hard drives potentially store information for other eyes to see.
“And this would apply to all of our electronics; most electronics now have hard drives they are holding data,” Couterie said. “That data needs to be dealt with and erased, or moved or deleted -- specifically deleted -- to wipe that memory fully.”
The BBB will wipe cell phones of all information and provide free paper shredding at its Secure Your ID Day on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wells Fargo branch on Northern Lights Boulevard.
Each person is allowed to bring three bags or boxes of documents to be shredded.
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