Like many people, you might have your card and bank account information stored in apps or in the mobile wallet on your cell phone. While mobile banking technology makes online shopping and banking more easily accessible, it has also inspired a new breed of hackers who are on a mission to steal your information. So how do you protect yourself from cell phone identity theft? If you know what to look out for, these signs could help you identify and prevent mobile and credit card fraud.  

1. Watch Out for Text Scams from Your “Bank”

You receive a text that appears to be from your credit card issuer or bank. You’re told to click on a link to resolve an issue with your account. But there’s a problem—it’s not really your bank. Text phishing, also known as “SMiShing,” tries to trick you into installing malware, which steals your personal information. If you think a text is suspicious, don’t click on the link. Instead, contact your bank directly. 

Messages from numbers like “5000” could be a sign that the text is a scam. Often, text scams are emails converted to a text message and aren’t accompanied by a traditional 10-digit phone number.

2. Beware of Calls Asking for Your Personal Info

Hackers may use an even more direct approach to access your personal information—just asking for it. Here’s how it happens: A scammer calls to warn you of an issue with your account and asks for your credit card, debit card or Social Security number to fix the problem. Don’t risk it—call your credit card issuer or bank directly to see if there’s really an issue. You can find those numbers on the back of your card or online.

3. Keep an Eye Out for Phony Apps

Another way hackers attempt to access the data on your phone is by designing duplicates of popular apps—also known as copycat apps. If you download one to your mobile device, your personal information could be exposed. Theses fake apps are sometimes installed by clicking on a link or pop-up ad, but they can also be found in your phone’s app store, like Google Play. The following clues are red flags:

  • Developer’s name isn’t on the app
  • Limited reviews—or a lot of negative reviews
  • Vague or brief instructions of what the app does

If you’re not sure an app is safe, do a quick search. Copycat apps that have caused problems often get negative reviews online.

4. Don’t Trust Fake Friends 

If you receive a direct message, follow or friend request from someone you don’t know, be careful. Hackers often use social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to attack mobile devices with infected links. If you don’t recognize the person or the link looks fishy, don’t respond. Delete the message, request or tweet.

Strangers aren’t all you have to worry about. Hackers will check to see who you are friends with, then make duplicate profiles for them. So if your Aunt Molly sends you a message asking for money or trying to get you to click on a link, check with her first to confirm if it’s real or fraudulent.

5. Don’t Forget to Clear Your Phone 

When it’s time to get rid of your phone, make sure you erase all your personal information. If you don’t, you could leave yourself vulnerable to identify theft. Everything from your address to your bank info could be on your phone. To erase your phone, look on the manufacturer’s website or check with your service provider for instructions. 

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