Published On: Wed, Jul 3rd, 2024
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O2 shares five ‘essential’ steps to protect your details as phone thef | Personal Finance | Finance

Britons are being urged to take certain steps to protect personal information held on their mobile phones as theft rates continue to soar.

Freedom of Information data obtained by The Sunday Times found that phone theft has soared to record levels, increasing by 20 percent. New research by network provider O2 found that subsequently, more than half of the nation (54 percent) is now worried it will happen to them.

A spokesperson at O2 said: “While O2 blocks phones as soon as they’re reported as stolen, [we are] today warning of the growing threat posed by phone-snatching fraudsters who use the stolen handsets to access personal data, take out loans or empty victims’ bank accounts.

“While most Britons already use a PIN or biometrics to unlock their phones there is more you can do to help protect yourself if your phone is lost or stolen.”

O2 has shared five “crucial” tips on how customers can be prepared and protect themselves.

Passwords and biometric protection

While the vast majority of Britons (82 percent) said they have a password on their device, a worrying 29 percent admit to storing additional passwords in their notes app on their phone.

O2 said: “Notes apps are one of the first places thieves look when trying to gain access to sensitive apps and accounts, such as online banking or cryptocurrency wallets.

People are urged to avoid keeping sensitive information in apps without password protection, either locking their notes app or using a password manager – which can store passwords behind face recognition – to create long and difficult-to-crack passwords.

O2 said: “Password managers help create additional barriers even if thieves have access to an unlocked phone.”

Use different PINs on apps to your main device

According to O2’s research, 38 percent of Britons reuse their phone password or PIN on other apps, such as online banking.

O2 said: “With criminals hanging over victims’ shoulders hoping to catch a glimpse at their pin code before swiping their phones, having different codes for important apps like online banking and your email accounts helps create friction, slowing fraudsters down and giving you additional time to react if your phone is stolen.”

Set up and switch on a SIM pin

People can help protect their mobile number and the information stored on their SIM card by setting up a SIM pin.

This means if a person restarts their device or the SIM is taken out of their phone and put into another one, they’d be required to enter a pin to unlock it. It also means that if the wrong pin is entered multiple times, it can only be unlocked by contacting an operator.

O2 said: “All O2 customers’ default PIN will be 0000 and will be turned off as standard, however, you can quickly change and turn on SIM pin in your phone settings.”

Turn message preview off

Scammers are increasingly using stolen phones to access bank accounts and even take out loans in victims’ names.

O2 said: “Many banks and websites send verification messages to your phone to check it’s really you. If a fraudster can read these, they’ll find it easier to go after your savings or spend money in your name.

“To prevent this, you should turn your preview off so that you can only see who the message is from – not what the message contains – when the device is locked.”

Ensure important device account information is to hand

Acting fast will always be key to preventing harm if a phone is stolen, O2 says.

It urged: “Ensure you know your device ID information and Apple ID or Google account password so you can quickly make changes like activating lost mode or disabling features including virtual credit cards.

“Have your IMEI – a unique 15-digit number that identifies a phone – stored safely as O2 can use this to block your phone if it’s stolen and the police can use it to return your device to you if they manage to retrieve it.”

People can find their IMEI number in three simple ways:

  • Dialling *#06# on their phone
  • Looking in their ‘Settings’
  • Looking in the battery compartment if t their hone has a removable battery

O2 added: “Reporting a lost or stolen phone to your mobile phone operator quickly is essential.”

It means providers can cancel the SIM on the device and stop it from being used on any UK network in future – preventing fraudsters from trying to exploit the person’s number for online verification.

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