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Scam alert: cyberproof your phone

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The May 2014 issue of AARP magazine shared several scam alerts for senior citizens, including how to cyberproof your phone.

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Cyberproofing one’s phone, however, is not just an issue for senior citizens. It can be an issue for citizens of all ages, especially considering 1 in 3 robberies in major cities nationwide now nets a mobile phone. In fact, thousands are stolen each day.

Not surprisingly, smart phones are increasingly targeted – not so much for all the amazing things they can do – but rather for their access to the Internet, text messages that have been sent without encryption and messaging apps which typically have no security precautions. Additionally, smart phone users are more likely than computer users to respond to spam.

How do you protect yourself and your phone? There are 12 steps you should take according to Sid Kircheimer, the author of Scam-Proof Your Life. These are paraphrased below:

If your phone offers encryption, enable it – Many people do not use encryption because they don’t know how. Go to help.unc.edu/help/encrypting-cell-phones for help. Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911 says, “Most encryption software will then automatically update as needed.”

Use security software recommended by your carrier or phone manufacturer. There are also free products offered by companies such as AVG, Avast and Lookout Mobile Security.

When using your smartphone to shop, use the retailer’s dedicated apps rather than your phone’s browser.

Read their reviews before installing apps – Stick with trusted vendors such as Google or Apple. Avoid apps wanting your OK to reveal your identity and location.

Rethink public Wi-Fi networks – “For the most part, you’re more secure using the provider’s network,” says Levin. Also, do not leave your Bluetooth open.

Do not autos-save your user name and passwords on apps or when using your smartphone to make financial transactions.

Regularly clear your browser history to prevent smartphone thieves from retracing your steps to hijack your accounts.

Get an app that will track and report the location of your phone if you misplace it. The app may help police recover your phone if it’s stolen. IPhones have a built-in app for this. Where’s My Droid works on Android models.

Ask your wireless carrier how to remotely erase stored data if your phone is lost or stolen. Have that data backed up on a cloud account.

Do not click on links in text messages or smartphone emails from strangers or even friends if the content does not appear to be their typical kind.

Consider carrying a low-cost “dumb” phone to use in public places. Thieves will not even take a second look.

Do what most people do not do but should – lock your phone with a PIN.

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