Would you lose everything if you lost your mobile phone?

Daniel Law / PA

If you lost your mobile phone, would you be at high risk of identity fraud? Thousands of us would as a new study reveals 40% of mobiles lost or stolen in the last two years were not protected with a password.

This leaves thieves or chancers free to roam through your Facebook and Twitter accounts and snoop through your stored data to find important passwords.

The research - released to today by Churchill Home Insurance and Garlik, the online fraud and identity experts - shows many of us are not taking steps to protect the personal information stored in mobile gadgets such as laptops and iPhones.

It is a scary lax in security considering how many of us now run our whole lives from our mobile phones. The study found 59% of us run e-mail accounts from phones and 14% store bank details, yet less than half (48%) of people changed all of their passwords to online personal accounts, such as bank accounts, after their mobile computing device was stolen or lost, while over a quarter (28%) did not change their passwords at all.

Churchill and Garlik warn that this gives thieves a huge window of opportunity as all the information can be used to impersonate you or gain access to other information that allows fraud to be committed.

Protect with passwords
For example, knowing a your PayPal or bank account number and having access to your email account could allow a fraudster to have the password resent, or reset, to something that would allow them to divert funds.

Other personal information such as address, birth city, phone numbers and date of birth were all identified as being kept on mobile phones and computers: vital details that can easily be used to impersonate an individual for criminal or financial gain.

Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance, commented: "Just as we would shred our bank statements and personal documents before we bin them, we should also take steps to ensure our online personal information is password-protected to guard against fraudsters. "

Churchill is teaming up with Garlik to offer preventative protection for customers against identity fraud and theft when their desktop PC or mobile computing devices are lost or stolen – yet there are plenty of measures you can take yourself.

Security tips
Providing you have not been negligent with your financial details, banks and financial service providers, such as Paypal, for example, will generally reimburse victims of identity fraud. It's crucial to be vigilant and bear in mind just how much information you are carrying around in your mobile phone or laptop. Always use passwords and use our guide on how to choose and remember a secure one.

Further security tips from Garlik include to always use the lock features of your mobile device whether a PIN, screen gesture or password. It might be a pain to type in all the time but could save you a lot of pain if you device is lost or stolen.

Don't save documents or notes on your device that contain the passwords/PINs for cards or online accounts with stores or banks, and learn how to clear the cache. Do this periodically or set your phone to do it automatically at set intervals.

If your device is stolen, act fast to change passwords to accounts, just as you would with cancelling debit or credit cards.

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