Today I received a brand new credit card because my old one had expired. To activate the new card, I had to call my credit card company so they could verify the card was indeed in the hands of the rightful owner. Having dropped my land-based phone line recently, I made the call from my cellular phone, and I had to type in my credit card number on my cell phone keypad. After the call I had the idea to check if my card number could be found anywhere on my cell phone – it was indeed very easy to find.

It is important to realize how sensitive information on a mobile device can be. If your mobile phone is stolen, such information can be leaked and at worst lead to identity theft. There are basic cell phone tips you can follow to help prevent it from happening:

  1. Beware of your phone’s history of dialed numbers. On all cell phones you have access to the list of recently dialed numbers and received calls. These numbers may contain information you typed on the keypad of your phone – information such as credit card numbers. It is important to clean up such information after making a private call. Keep in mind that not all cell phones record information at the same place. My RAZR V3c from Bell Mobility has a Notepad feature which records the key I press during a call. This feature can be a danger to your privacy.
  2. Keep contact list information simple. Do you really need to keep your family member’s addresses on your cell phone? If your cell phone is stolen, the thief will not only most likely learn who you are, but he will also learn who your family member’s are and where they live. Keeping your contact list simple and stripped of important information will definitively help protect your privacy.
  3. Remove important information from your agenda. Most cell phones have a calendar feature which can also act as an electronic agenda. If you keep your appointments in there, a potential stalker will know about your next appointment if he can have a look at your phone. I’m not saying to forget the feature, but you might want to keep the information basic if you’re concerned about your privacy.
  4. Erase sensitive text messages. If you are using special text message services like Paypal Mobile or even MSN Mobile, make sure you delete the history of sent and received messages containing information such as passwords or personal information.
  5. Disable the GPS feature. Some cell phones have a GPS tracking feature, allowing for example automatic time change when you travel between timezones. This might be a little far fetched, but if you are concerned about someone tracking you, you may want to turn off that feature. However, keep in mind that the GPS tracking feature can be important in the case of an emergency, as it allows 911 services to track you easier.
  6. Put a password on the cell phone. Adding a password to your cell phone and locking it can help prevent information thieves from accessing your information. It will not stop a dedicated person from cracking the password, but it certainly will slow him down.
  7. Make sure you erase all personal information before you give the phone away. If you want to give your cell phone away for recycling or sell it to another person, make sure you erase all information from the phone. Most cell phones have an option to erase all information and reset to factory default buried deep into their menu system.

Cell phone privacy is something we should all be concerned about. While these tips are aimed at cellular phones, they can also be applied to other mobile devices as well. If you’re concerned about your cell phone’s privacy, take steps to help protect yourself. Better be safe than sorry!