How Phone Theft Can Be an Identity Theft Threat

What is identity theft?

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain“. -United States Department of Justice

  • What are identity thieves looking for?
  • Name & birthdate
  • SIN or social security number
  • Addresses
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Username and password for online services
  • Driver’s license number
  • Personal identification numbers (PIN)
  • Credit card information
  • Bank account numbers
  • Signature
  • Passport number

Cell phone theft and how it can put you at risk for identity theft.

With so many methods available and more sensitive data being stored on smartphones and mobile devices, cellular phone security has become a major concern. Your cell phone is a portable information carrying device. You may have bank apps on your phone as well as Facebook and various other social media apps permanently logged in. All these applications carry sensitive information about you and your life that can be utilized to collect even more critical private information.

Your cell phone can put you at risk for identity theft even if it has not been stolen. Identity thieves can connect to your phone by hacking into Wi-fi or Bluetooth connections from public locations. There are software applications readily available on the market that can be used to listen to phone conversations. Checking in on social media apps can allow hackers to monitor your location and possibly target your home.

Common ways that a hacker gains access to your cellular phone include:

  • Bluehacking – gaining access to your phone when it is a discoverable device on an unprotected Bluetooth network
  • Unnoticed access to an unlocked phone left unattended in a public space
  • Mimicry of a trusted network or cell phone tower
  • Phone cloning by copying the SIM card of the target phone
  • Malware apps that install malicious software or make changes to firmware
  • Phishing via mobile optimized sites
  • Fraudulent account resets using known information about the user (phone number, birth date, address and so on)

Recommendations of the Canadian government on how to avoid cell phone identity theft.

  • Don’t give your credit card number on the telephone
  • Take advantage of technologies that enhance your security and privacy when you use the Internet, such as digital signatures, data encryption, and “anonymizing” services
  • Be careful what you throw out

Throwing out an old phone is a hazard. Without data self-destruct software, dumpster divers can have a heyday with your phone’s data.
What are governments and manufactures doing to protect consumers?

In the US it is a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine. In Canada the potential penalties to identity thieves are a walk in the park in comparison at a five-year maximum prison sentence with a fine attached. However identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the US today and while the penalties for these crimes have been increased in both countries cell phones remain an easy and vulnerable target. Manufacturers provide password protection but wouldn’t it be nice to see a data self-destruct mechanism? Until then it’s up to you.,2817,2419491,00.asp–211141521.html