Smartphones are changing the way we bank, do business, and stay in touch with friends and family. And while these products do make our lives easier and more enjoyable, they can also leave you vulnerable to fraud. Nearly 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2011 and this number is growing with smartphone and social media users 1

According to a 2012 Javelin Strategy and Research Survey on Identity Fraud 7% of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud – this is a third higher incidence rate compared to the general public. 

The survey revealed that smartphone and social media users are typically less cautious with their personal data. The following behaviors were identified as over share of personal data on social networks that are often used to authenticate a consumer’s identity, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Think about your mobile and social activities, do any of these apply to you?

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  • 32% of smartphone users never update the operating system
  • 62% of smartphone users have no password on their phone
    • This provides direct access to all information to anyone who finds a lost phone
    • Users many times store passwords for banking and other applications on devices, leaving them exposed for fraud
  • 68% Social Media sites surveyed showed that of those with public profiles:
    • 45% disclosed their birthday in mm/dd/yyyy format
    • 63% the high school they attended
    • 18% their phone number
    • 12% a pet’s name

Mobile banking is an activity that’s growing in popularity by smartphone users. Forty-four percent of smartphone users do some type of online banking via their smartphone with 21% of them doing so on a daily basis2. When using these applications, privacy and security are extremely important. Look for features such as automatic log out after 5 minutes of inactivity, account number masking, and make sure that no personal or financial information is stored on your mobile device – All standard with the recently released Lakeland Bank Mobile Banking app.

So how do you continue to enjoy these applications and social networks without putting your personal data at risk? Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of financial fraud:

  • Password-protect your smartphone – This is the first layer of physical security to protect the contents of the device. In conjunction with the passcode, enable the screen lock feature after a few minutes of inactivity.
  • Be careful about the apps you download – Read the reviews of the developer/company who published the application and review the permissions you are giving when you download applications.
  • Install and update antivirus software – Make sure your computer and smartphone have antivirus software that is always up-to-date in order to maximize protection against keystroke loggers and other malware commonly used for identity theft.
  • Share information carefully when you are on a public Wi-Fi network – Never conduct mobile banking, e-commerce or other business involving usernames, passwords or other personal information on an unsecured or unfamiliar wireless network.
  • Install updates to smartphone applications and firmware regularly – If you neglect to do so, it increases the risk of having your device compromised.
  • Review and customize privacy settings – Research your social network’s default account settings and make sure to customize your personal privacy settings in order to share information only with the people you choose.
  • Avoid sharing too much information on public profiles – Don’t share answers to common security questions like your mother’s maiden name, high school, graduation date or names of pets.

There are also federal resources available to provide information on how to be safe online and help protect you from fraud. Check for tips from the federal government to help you be on guard against Internet fraud. Also, the Federal Communications Commission has launched theSmartphone Security Checker, an online tool to assist consumers with customizing the security of their mobile operating systems. 

As a general rule, use the same precautions on your smartphone as you would on your computer when accessing the Internet. 

1. Javelin Strategy and Research. 2012 Identity Fraud Industry Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier

2. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project: Mobile. December 2012