Failure to log out of apps or clear browser histories can lead straight to identity theft
Smartphone users are putting themselves at risk of having their identities stolen by failing to log out of apps and clear their browser histories.
A survey by credit reference agency Equifax has found that while more than a quarter of people do online banking on their phone, a third don’t log out of social media or banking websites, 42% fail to clear their browser history and 45% do not protect their smartphones with passwords.
Even worse, one in five store passwords, pins, bank account or credit card details on their smartphones. All this makes it easier for fraudsters to access personal information, including bank details, if phones are lost or stolen.
“More and more people are using smartphones for all aspects of their life and enjoy the convenience of shopping and banking on the go,” says Neil Munroe, chair of the Identity Fraud Communications Awareness Group. “But it seems many users don’t realise just how much data they are holding and how at risk their identity could be. There seems to be a culture of ‘it couldn’t happen to me’. A stolen phone can provide all the passwords, email addresses, telephone numbers and personal information criminals need to open new accounts and rack up huge debts in the victim’s name. “
Even logging out of apps and clearing your history may not be enough to protect your personal details. Ed Woodcock, an IT specialist, believed he knew enough to make sure his personal information was secure. Even so, thieves obtained his personal and bank account details.
Evidence of something going awry emerged on 27 September when he tried to log into his online bank account and was asked to prove who he was by entering some personal details. The criminals had changed his email address to their own to access his account, then changed it back again so their email address could not be traced. At the time, Woodcock assumed he’d typed in his details incorrectly so didn’t check out the problem with his bank.
Next day he logged in and discovered fraudsters had used NatWest’s mobile app to transfer £1,500 from a savings account to his current account, then made several withdrawals totalling £830 via the bank’s emergency cash scheme before he managed to get his account blocked.
Woodcock says: “I had my phone on me the whole time, so I’m not sure how they got my details or into my account. But it has made me much more wary about where I do my online banking: I’ll only do it on a device I’m absolutely sure of in an environment that is secure – so no more logging on in internet cafes or using free Wi-Fi on trains.”
He has also been through all the apps on his phone to check for rogue ones and to see what information legitimate ones have access to, deleting those which accessed sensitive data such as his text messages.
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