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A recent study found smartphone users are at a 33% increased risk for identity theft. However, there are things you can do to stay one step ahead and protect your identity. BMO Harris Bank suggests the following strategies to keep your information from falling into the wrong hands:

Password protect your phone

This is the first step you should take toward protecting your identity. In the event your phone is lost or stolen, a password creates a barrier against thieves trying to access your information. Make sure the password you select is unique and not associated with other personal information like your address, phone number or birthday.

Be selective when downloading apps

While many programs are safe to use, some are actually tools created by identity thieves to collect and distribute your personal information. Before downloading an app, make sure it’s from a secure source and read the description to find out what personal data is collected. If it seems suspicious, skip it.

Be careful using public Wi-Fi

Although it’s tempting to tap into public Wi-Fi zones, these hotspots are frequently targeted by hackers looking to gain access to your personal information. A better bet is using your network provider connection, even if it dips into your data plan. If you must use a public connection, avoid email, online banking or buying anything with a credit card number.

Use basic computer smarts

Just as you wouldn’t visit suspicious websites or open questionable links on your personal computer, you shouldn’t do these things when using your phone. Also, remember to check that a site is secure before providing personal or financial information for logging in or purchasing items. The easiest way to check is by looking for “https” versus “http” in your address bar.

Use social media with caution

Many people use their Smartphones to update their social media accounts. But don’t forget that in addition to your family and friends seeing these updates, identity thieves are also tapped in. Remember that anything you post on a public site can be seen by other people so you should make sure that you don’t include personal information in these updates.

Originally published on Advisor.ca
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