What is mobile phone identity theft?
Mobile phone identity theft is a type of identity theft which is very easy to commit and is also very lucrative. The mobile phone technology and its easy availability at low prices have enabled almost everyone to use it. But this ease comes with a risk to your identity as hacking mobile phones is as easy as getting a new phone.
Mobile phone owners are the chief target for identity thieves as the thieves are looking for several ways to steal the money of people by stealing their identities. Losing your phone could lead to several types of losses which are unimaginable. Acquiring control over someone’s phone account means acquiring control over the person’s bank account also.
According to a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), incidents of mobile phone identity theft increased from 1,038 in January 2013 to 2,658 by January 2016.
What are the ways in which mobile phone can be hacked?
There are several ways in which your mobile phone can be hacked and you could become victim of mobile phone identity theft. These are:
• Stolen or lost mobile phone
Stealing and loss of mobile phones is a very common problem everywhere. According to a study, about 3 million cell phones are stolen or lost in the United States every year. Loss of your phone can lead to just anything! If it falls in the hands of a wrong person, he could use it for anything like making unauthorized calls or sending unauthorized messages. The criminal can also use it to extract your personal information.
• Subscriber fraud
Subscriber fraud is one of the biggest mobile phone scams in the country. In this fraud, the thief steals your personal details and then uses it to open a cell phone account in your name. The thief acquires the SIM using your identity and all the services are utilized by him while the bills arrive in your mailbox.
• Mobile Phone Cloning
In this process, the identity thief use scanners to read your mobile phone identity. They acquire the mobile number, mobile’s unique serial number, and other important details. Now, by using these details they program another mobile phone and then use it. This way they clone your mobile phone and use the services at your expense.
Eavesdropping involves secretly installing a perfectly legal software on your mobile phone and then snooping in. The identity thieves can then record your phone calls, access your text messages, call logs, and much more. They can even track your location and monitor use phone’s microphone to record nearby sounds or conversations.
• Ringtone scams
There are several free ringtones available on the internet. Some of these tones are hacked by hackers. So, when these ringtones are downloaded, they install a virus on the phone which may damage the phone or steal your private information.
• Bogus text messages
This scam involves receiving an unsolicited text message which asks you to take some type of action. The most common type of scam in this category involves a text message which appears to be from your bank. The message says that your account has been suspended and asks you to call a number and provide your details. This way the crooks acquire your personal information.
What steps should be taken to reduce the risk of mobile phone identity theft?
Take the following steps to protect yourself from mobile phone identity theft:
1. Take care of your phone
Always look after your mobile phone. Protect is just like your precious belonging such as your wallet.
2. Lock your phone
Always keep your mobile phone locked. Set up a strong PIN or password on your phone using password security tips to protect your identity. Use the option of multiple passwords, if available.
3. Beware of phishing scams
Be cautious of phishing scams in which identity thieves call or text you pretending to be your SIM carrier and ask for your personal information. Never give your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
4. Verify your carrier’s number
Call your carrier only on the number given on your bill and not on the number provided to you over the phone.
5. Check your mobile phone bills regularly
Regularly monitor your mobile phone account for any signs of fraud. If you find anything suspicious, immediately contact your mobile phone carrier.
6. Dispose of your mobile phones safely
Don’t just throw away your old mobile phone just like that. Before disposing of your phone, eradicate all the information from it whether it is important or not.
7. Be careful while using Bluetooth
Switch OFF the Bluetooth of your mobile phone when not in use. Also, un-select the “discoverable” option in the Bluetooth settings to avoid any unauthorized person to connect with your device.
8. See the permissions required by the app
Before installing any app, see what all permissions the app is demanding.
9. Be careful while downloading ringtones
Always download ringtones from websites of legitimate companies and not from any random websites.
10. Check your social network privacy settings
Make sure that your personal information isn’t easily available on social networking websites by checking the privacy settings.
Identity theft is a growing crime in its various forms. You need to protect yourself from its damages. Follow the mobile security tips to protect yourself and your identity.