The fact that a smartphone makes you more vulnerable to criminal identity theft shouldn’t be surprising — you are carrying a miniature computer in your pocket. Computers can be hacked, compromised, or infected with viruses. All of these threats allow cyber criminals an opportunity to obtain account log ins and personal identifying information that lead to identity theft.
Cell Phone Fraud
In some cases, the phone itself is the ultimate goal. Hacked phones bring in big dollars on the black market. In a recent crime ring uncovered by the U.S. Secret Service, criminals were stealing identities in order to obtain phones subsidized by the government. Individuals sold those phones to a dealer, who then sold them for a profit in overseas markets.
In some cases, your identity may not be completely compromised. Yet someone could still hack your phone records to commit subscriber fraud. These crimes usually involve someone adding another line to your account or stealing your phone number for use on their device. You end up with a lot of hassle and a phone bill that’s out of control. Verizon keeps a list of current fraud and scam alerts, including phishing scams and subscriber fraud.
Protect Yourself from Criminal Identity Theft
Here are four ways to protect yourself from phone-related criminal identity theft:
Keep your phone within sight or in a safe place at all times. Some phones and carriers have a “Find my Phone” app (e.g., iCloud).
Use a password to lock the screen. This prevents someone from grabbing a quick peek at your information in case you misplace your phone.
Review your bill every month and ask questions about any charge that seems incorrect.
Don’t throw your bill in the garbage — hackers can use the information to compromise your account. Instead, consider signing up for monthly e-statements.
If you still like a paper statement, add it to your shred pile (which should contain all paper with sensitive information like account numbers, phone numbers, address). Then use a professional shredding service (like us) to dispose of your unwanted paper economically and in an environmentally friendly way.