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Identity Theft Resolution Center »

ProtectMyIDTM Newsletter

Being Smart on Your Smartphone

For sharing and consuming information, nothing beats the convenience of having a smartphone in your pocket. You can read a restaurant review, make a reservation, send an invitation to your friends and get directions all within minutes. But, for every move you make, there's more going on behind the scenes than you may realize.

Your smartphone and mobile service provider are constantly collecting information about your whereabouts and behavior. Information that advertisers can use to send you offers from the businesses around you. Or that law enforcement can use to establish your location at the scene of a crime.

You may think your boss could never know you prefer taking the long way back to the office after a meeting. But, according to the website PrivacyRights.org, it's legal for your employer to track your whereabouts during work hours through the GPS on your company-issued phone.

Location tracking raises numerous questions about privacy. Who can access this goldmine of information about you? How long is it stored? The concern for your identity is clear. The more information that is available about you, the easier it is to steal your identity.

This concern likely won't stop you from using your smartphone, so instead think about how you use it.


  • Voluntarily post your whereabouts on websites such as Twitter and Facebook without using privacy settings to limit who can view the information
  • Allow friends to track you through websites such as Google Latitude Opt in for location-based advertising
  • Opt in for location-based advertising


  • Turn off location sharing capabilities on social networking sites
  • Look into disabling "geotags," which embed location information in photos taken on your smartphone
  • Use the ProtectMyID iPhone App to view your Alerts on the go

The way we use smartphones and the misuse of the information they collect is still evolving. Make sure you consider the consequences of purposefully sharing too much.

Talking to Kids about Data Privacy

Children see the Internet as a place to play games, connect with friends and even keep up with their favorite cartoon or TV characters. So, it's asking a lot of them to understand the complexities and risks of the online world. There's also little denying that the Internet is just as much a part of their lives as it is ours, so they need to know how to use it responsibly.

Here are a few pointers to start the conversation with your children and teens about data privacy - both online and off.

Talking to Children

  • Set up parameters for online activity. Talk to your children about what sites they enjoy and post a list of approved sites by the computer. Ad blocking software can help ensure they don't click on any dangerous links that might install keystroke logging software or be a phishing scam while using these sites.
  • Ask your children to tell you if they encounter a website that requires users to register. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires sites to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13. Review the site's privacy policies before giving your approval and know that the site may install cookies to track your child's activity.

Talking to Teens

  • The risk of identity theft among young adults ages 18-24 who use social networking is nearly double that of all consumers, according to the 2010 Javelin Identity Fraud Survey Report. Talk with your teens about what is and isn't appropriate to post and help them understand that what goes online stays online.
  • Ask teens not to share Social Security or credit card numbers with anyone, including boyfriends/girlfriends, relatives or online connections. Explain that this can lead to identity theft, the consequences of which include being responsible for someone else's bills and not being able to obtain college loans.

Also consider adding ChildSecureTM to your ProtectMyID membership to monitor for credit reports established in all of your children's names.

Medical Privacy Checkup

Your health records are perhaps the most personal of all the personal information you have reason to protect. Not only do your records contain the details of diagnoses, medications and surgeries, they also contain a complete profile of your personal identifying information, including your full name, address, birth date and Social Security number.

With 1996's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal government strengthened regulations on how these important records can be shared in order to promote better patient privacy. As more and more doctors are switching to electronic record storage and management, the need for enhanced privacy is greater than ever.

The many risks of having your medical records fall into the wrong hands range from identity theft to medical fraud. The consequences include:

  • Having to pay for someone else's medical care that he/she received while posing as you
  • Finding out that your benefits have been exhausted due to fraud
  • Receiving the wrong prescription or treatment because someone else's medical information is a part of your health records

The privacy of your medical information is clearly a serious matter, and one you should speak to your doctors' offices about if you have concerns. Keep in mind that:

  • You have the right to ask your doctors' offices with whom they have shared your medical records
  • Doctors' offices are often crowded, so be wary of people sitting near you who are trying to see the information you write on your patient forms
  • You can ask your doctors questions about the protections they have in place for their records storage system

To read more about medical fraud, visit ProtectMyID's online Resources for Identity Theft.

FTC Tips for Data Privacy

As part of Data Privacy Day, take some time to consider if you're effectively utilizing these recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect your personal information. If not, why not make them a part of your New Year's resolutions? After all, your identity is a valuable asset, and data privacy helps to protect the many elements that comprise it.

Data Storage Tips

  • Keep sensitive documents in a secure place - not in your wallet or purse or in a pile on your desk at home. This is especially important if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done on your home.
  • For documents you don't need to store, shred them properly before you discard them to prevent dumpster divers from stealing account numbers and other important information. This includes pre-approved credit card offers.

Electronic Data Tips

  • The importance of secure account passwords needs to continually be stressed. Don't use an obvious password, such as "123456" or one that someone could easily guess even if they only knew a little bit about you. Also change your passwords every three months and don't use one password for all of your accounts.
  • Use anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software to protect your computer and all of the sensitive information it contains. Keep all of your software and your operating system up to date to ensure you have the latest protection and aren't accidentally exposing your personal information through keystroke logging or other malicious software.
  • Don't give out personal information while chatting online or click on links in emails from senders you don't know. While the risks of the former are obvious, the risks of the latter may be less identifiable but can include infecting your computer with dangerous software that allows criminals to control your computer or oversee everything, including credit cards numbers, you type.