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BizReport : Mobile Marketing : January 14, 2011

Smartphone owners need to be smarter

Experian has released research by their identity-protection service, ProtectMyID, that shows that some smartphone users might not be quite as smart as their phones.

by Helen Leggatt

The way in which smartphone owners use their device, and what they store on it, is potentially putting them at high risk of identity fraud and seriously undermining the security of their personal data and behavior, according to Experian's latest report.

While the worst someone who had access to your old mobile phone could do was send dodgy texts to your contact list, or run up huge bills, today's devices contain far more personal and sensitive information as well as access to private domains and accounts.

Nowadays, seemingly innocuous smartphone behavior, such as storing emails with sensitive information (credit card details / pin numbers), or using unsecure public Wi-Fi spots, can provide the unscrupulous with a mine of personal information.

Even logging on to a social network from a smartphone provides ID thieves with a plethora of data - data of birth, hometown, and maiden name - information that is commonly incorporated into passwords.

With as many as 10,000 smartphone stolen in the U.K. every month, there is ample opportunity for ID thieves to hack accounts, open new ones in the smartphone owner's name and run up debts.

"Often, the first people know about it is when they receive a demand for payment for services they haven't used or for an account they have never heard of," said Peter Turner, Managing Director of Experian Interactive.

"We've certainly seen cases where criminals have changed the address of the smartphone, ordered new handsets and run up huge bills."

There are a few things that can be done to lessen the risk of ID theft and financial misery via a smartphone:

- Password-protect your device when not in use or not in your possession - but be aware this is low-level protection through which many thieves can hack.

- Never download from a source you don't know or trust.

- When accessing sensitive information, such as bank accounts, don't use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.

- Consider the use of a remote wipe-out service which can delete your information from a smartphone when reported stolen.

- Always delete all information from your smartphone before selling it on.

Tags: mobile use, security, smartphone

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