If you are looking for a great adrenaline rush during your next vacation — the type that makes your stomach feel like it’s hitting the floor — you can either ride the tallest and scariest roller coaster you can find, face your fears with a trip into a deep dark cave filled with bats or accidentally lose your smartphone.
That horrid feeling of “Oh NO, where is it?” can make your stomach churn and your head fill with worry. After all, that little hand-held computer holds tons of personal info, and the last thing you need is to have your identity stolen by some nogoodnik.
Fear not, world travelers — should the worst happen and your smartphone is lost or stolen, there are a number of steps you can take to decrease your risk of identity theft.
Enable All of Your Security Features
Basically, you want to do everything you can to make sure your smartphone’s built-in security features are fully operational and ready to go prior to your trip, especially if you don’t normally use them. If the passcode on your iPhone 6 drives you batty or you have disabled the fingerprint recognition safety feature on your Samsung Galaxy, re-establish these useful features before leaving home.
The upcoming iPhone X will include a security feature called the Face ID system that will use your facial information to unlock your phone. If you are asking Santa to bring you this amazing new phone for Christmas and you plan on taking it with you during your incredible voyage next spring, be sure you “enroll” your face to help log into your phone. The innovative Face ID system will make a mathematical representation of your face, and will compare it to the image you used to register. This system is designed to change over time and adapt. For example, if you don’t shave while you are on vacation and your face looks scruffy, the Face ID system might not know it is you — in this case, you will enter in your passcode, and the iPhone X will remember you next time.
Learn How to Wipe Data from Afar
If you cannot find your smartphone or you saw someone swipe it from your backpack at a museum, take immediate steps to wipe its data. As Smarter Travel notes, though you will lose any data you have not backed up — for example, the photos you took that morning — it’s much better than losing your identity and having your personal data like bank account and credit card numbers fall into the wrong hands.
The key to this system working properly is to install the Find My Phone app which is available for both iOS and Android phones; you will use the app to wipe your phone remotely. One key tip for you Apple fans: once you erase your data, you won’t be able to use the Find My iPhone feature. Before activating the remote data wiping, try to locate your smartphone by calling or texting or playing a sound on it.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
Technically you can have your identity stolen from your smartphone without it ever leaving your sight. Wi-Fi hotspots may be popular and budget-friendly, saving you money on roaming fees, but they are also much less secure than cellular connections. Instead, use a virtual private network or opt for the roaming option when traveling, especially when checking your bank balance, paying for anything with a credit card or accessing any other personal info.