If you’ve ever had your phone stolen, you know the feeling of violation that comes with it. You don’t just lose your way of calling people, looking up directions on the go and sending text messages; you lose a little device that essentially holds the key to your entire life story—past, present and future. The very thing that makes smart phones so helpful (their ability to link up to pretty much every aspect of our lives) is the same thing that makes them so vulnerable.
Don’t hand out your personal information so easily! Although it’s natural to link our phone to almost every aspect of our lives, you’re also giving thieves an easy way to hack you, your accounts and your personal information if your phone is ever lost or stolen. Start by deleting the following information right away – these items are not the most important things held on your device, but could give strangers a dangerous look into your personal doings.
You likely have your primary email set up in your phone. Each time you receive an email to Gmail, Yahoo or whichever service you use, your phone gets it, too. And your phone doesn’t automatically log you out of your email if you haven’t used it in a while; it’s always open. When you’re planning a trip, you’ll receive an email confirmation for every plane ticket you book, hotel reservation you make, restaurant reservation you make and more. Should someone get a peek at your email, they could quickly discern that you’re about to leave your home unattended for a while. Delete these confirmation emails within your phone. They’ll still be in your primary email, but you don’t want them to pop up on the interface of your smart phone.
Password reset emails
If you’ve recently had to reset your password to some account—from your bank account to your Amazon account—that account is vulnerable for the next day or so. When you need to reset a password, after answering some security questions, the service sends a reset link to your email. Anyone who clicks on that link has the power to access your account, and change the password. The link is usually valid for about 24 hours from the time it’s sent. That little link could be someone’s access to your most private accounts and all that someone would have to do is open the email on your phone within the right time frame.
Your security system passcode
If you have your security system passcode written in Notes or any other writing app in your phone, delete that. Note-taking apps do not require passwords and anyone can open them up and see what you have written down.
Text instructions for pet or house sitters
If you have a pet or house sitter coming over, you may have texted him or her a set of instructions, like the code to the security system, where you’ve left the spare key and so on. Delete these instructions right after sending them. If you can, simply speak the instructions over the phone and let your house sitter write it down themselves.
You’re much better off taking the five seconds to manually enter your passwords than having your phone remember them. Don’t let your bank account, credit card account, medical payment plan account or any other private account remember your passwords. The convenience that offers isn’t worth the hassle it can come with.
Photos of your new valuables
When you’re excited about your new car, new big screen television or new rare piece of art, you take a photo of it and send it to friends and family. But if a thief were to look through your photos, they’d be able to see what sort of valuables are in your home. Don’t leave a trace! Delete all photos of expensive items you own immediately.
Photos of secret items
You may have photos depicting the hiding spot of the spare key, the little post-it that has the security passcode on it, the hiding spot of the spare garage opener and more. You took them ages ago and sent them to your best friend or sibling who was stopping by, so they’d be able to navigate your home. If the person who needed them originally now has those photos, there’s no need to hold onto them yourself. Delete them immediately.
While someone in your life may not want to blackmail you, a burglar might. If you have any texts or photos you wouldn’t want to get out to the world, from texts in which you criticize your boss to intimate photos meant for your significant other—delete these. A burglar may steal these images and threaten to release them if you don’t give them what they want.
Each day, we log into our phones more times than we can count. It’s second nature to punch valuable and private information into these tiny devices. Clearing them of this information on a regular basis could prevent a serious problem in the future.