Don't lose everything when you lose your smartphone
Many consumers are not taking steps to protect the personal information they have stored on their mobile computing devices, such as laptops and iPhones, according to research by Churchill Home Insurance and Garlik. The study found that nearly 40 per cent of mobile computing devices that were lost or stolen in the past two years were not protected with a password.
Less than half (48 per cent) of people changed all of their passwords to online personal accounts, such as bank accounts, after their mobile computing device was stolen or lost, while over a quarter (28 per cent) did not change their passwords at all. This gives thieves a large window of opportunity.
Not having password protection could leave people vulnerable to online fraud, as many people store their personal account details and passwords on their mobile computing devices and use them for accessing financial accounts:
59 per cent run e-mail accounts from their portable devices
29 per cent of respondents said the internet history on at least one of their portable devices was cleared less than once a month
21 per cent said they never cleared the internet history on one or more of their portable devices
16 per cent store the answers to security questions on one or more mobile devices
14 per cent of portable device owners store bank details on portable devices, 9 per cent store credit card details, and 8 per cent PIN numbers
All of this information can be used to impersonate an individual or gain access to other information that will allow fraud to be committed. For example, knowing a person's PayPal or bank account number and having access to their email account could allow them to have the password resent, or reset, to something that would allow them to divert funds. Other personal information such as address, birth city, phone numbers and date of birth were all identified as being kept on mobile computing devices and could easily be used to impersonate an individual for criminal or financial gain.
Furthermore, Churchill Home Insurance has seen the number of theft claims for computing devices and mobile phones increase from 12 per cent to 14 per cent of all home insurance theft claims over the past two years.
From 1st September 2011 Churchill Home Insurance is offering the Garlik DataPatrol service free to all new customers until 30th November 2011, providing preventative protection for customers against identity fraud and theft when their desktop PC or mobile computing devices are lost or stolen.
Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance, commented: "Many people take out insurance to cover the cost of replacing their computer or mobile phone, but people often don't consider the threat of online theft if their mobile computing device is stolen. Just as we would shred our bank statements and personal documents before we bin them, we should also take steps to ensure our online personal information is password-protected to guard against fraudsters. "
"The general public has to protect its digital life, not just physical devices," said Andy Thomas, managing director at Garlik. "Churchill's decision to help customers take a proactive and preventative approach to protecting their personal information is exactly the kind innovation needed in home insurance. Customers will be alerted to the risk of fraud so that it can be averted, rather than simply offered assistance for a theft or fraud after the horse has bolted."
Garlik's DataPatrol service works by constantly scanning the internet and information black market for information provided by customers, such as bank details, driving licence or passport numbers, essentially anything that could regarded as personally identifiable. When this information is found the customer is immediately alerted and advised on a course of action to protect them against that information being used for illegal activity. This could be as simple as accidentally displaying a piece of information on a social networking site, or the online sale of their credit card details between criminals.
Tips from Garlik on Smartphones and mobile devices:
Always use the lock features of your mobile device whether a PIN, screen gesture or password. It might be a pain to type in all the time but could save you a lot of pain if you device is lost or stolen
Don't save documents or notes on your device that contain the passwords/PINs for cards or online accounts with stores or banks
Once you know a device has been stolen, acting fast is essential. The quicker you change passwords to accounts the better. You wouldn't think about it for two days if someone ran off with your wallet
Learn how to clear the cache on your mobile device and do this periodically. Some can easily be set to do this automatically at set intervals