Stolen mobile - keeping it safe

With the mobile phones now having such high value these days they have become a common target for thieves of today.

“Apple Picking” as it’s called by thieves, who steal iPhones, is a problem we should all be aware of, but perhaps the question we should be asking is where’s the money for the thief, in the phone itself or in the data stored on the phone?

What's worth more your phone or your personal data:
Consider that a good smart phone today can cost £400 plus, they’ve become an easy target, but if we consider what data we may have stored on our phones, then the value of the phone could be small by comparison. Identity theft can be very lucrative and a mobile that has the right personal data on it could be the start of a journey into a world of pain and loss which far outweighs the value of the phone, as they clean out bank accounts, run up large bills and spend your hard earned money.

As we all know prevention is always better than cure, so we’ve put this blog together with some hints and tips on how to protect your smart phone and the data stored on it.

Most at risk group:
This data is more critical for younger people because the most at risk group for having their phones stolen are the 14 – 24 year olds, so if you have children or you are a in that age group this is far more relevant to you.

First let’s look at simple precautions to keep your phone safe:
1.       Consider where you keep the phone. Don’t leave it within easy access of a thief – deep pockets, internal pockets are a good start and make sure it’s not on show.
2.       Think carefully before using your handbag, but if you have to use your handbag make sure it’s not visible – i.e. the bag is kept closed.
3.       Consider the area where you are using them. Remember we tend to get lost in our conversations at times and wouldn’t notice someone as they ran up and grabbed your phone until it was too late.
4.       If you have the latest ‘state of the art’ smart phone, avoid flashing it around in public, as far as possible.
5.       Make sure when using the phone you hold it firmly in your hand or use some form of hands free kit which enables you to keep the phone in an internal pocket out of sight, as well as leave your hands free.
6.       Never leave your mobile unattended – it only takes seconds for it to disappear.

So what should you do if your phone is stolen?
Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but if it does, knowing what to do can make all the difference when it comes to claiming on insurance and avoiding being charged for use of the phone.
1.       Contact your provider immediately. They will likely disconnect your service so that no money can be spent using the phone. Check your contract for any aspect that you may still have to pay.
IMPORTANT – make a note of the time, date, name of the person you speak to, what they said and their extension number and ask for something in writing stating what was agreed. This could be critical information if the thief makes costly calls while they have the phone.
2.       Contact / report the theft to the police and get a crime reference number. This will make all the difference when dealing with insurance.
3.       If you don’t get a crime reference number you could get a loss reference number from the Police or the relevant authority such as Transport for London
4.       The address of the Police station along with the Police Officers badge number that you spoke to.
5.       Note the time and date as well as the last call you made or text you sent

Other information about protecting your phone:
1.       If you’ve mislaid your phone and you’re not sure whether you’ve left it somewhere or its been stolen, you can call the number. Now remember to be polite at all times because the person may be going to return the phone even if you suspect otherwise.
2.       Keep a record of the following information about your phone and keep somewhere safe:
a.       Your Phone Number
b.      Make and model
c.       Colour and any identifying marks
d.      Pin or security lock code
e.      Record the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) or MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier) – see below how to find this number
f.        Add a security mark using an ultra violet pen (post code / house number) to the inside of the phone and on the battery. It will need to be re-applied every couple of months because it wears off.
g.       You could also include another number or email address in case someone finds the phone and wants to return it.
3.       Use the security lock or pin feature to lock the phone – this makes the phone less valuable to the thief and helps protect your data.

IMEI / MEID numbers – these are individual numbers that relate to your phone only. There are several ways to find this number, the simplest of which are listed below:
1.       Look in your original packaging – not in the booklet, but in the box or used as part of the seal.
2.       Under the battery side your phone
3.       Type *#06# where you would normally dial a number to call and it should bring the number up on the screen without you having to type or press any other button.
Use technology – anti theft software

Today there are various anti theft software programs that can be used on today’s mobile devices. Most will track your device, so that you can find the phone and some once activated will keep the phone on so that it can be tracked, whilst blocking your phone.
Because this technology is fast paced we would recommend doing your own research and reading reviews.
Many of these are also free to use, so there are very few reasons not to sign up to one of them.

Another additional idea is to register your mobile device with www.immobilise.com They have a database linked to every Police force in the UK, which the Police use to check mobile phones. It’s also a FREE service and has resulted in 100’s of mobile phones being returned to their owners.


Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with any of the above, but being prepared is always the better option – shutting the gate after the horse has bolted, is too late.

Holiday Security – looking after your possessions.

Once we leave the home and start that journey towards fun and frolics, it’s easy to switch off to the issue of security, but one moment of lapse can cause much upset and leave you with a negative memory of what should be a fun time.
What we've done here is list out some of the points to consider whilst away to help ensure you come back from your holiday with smiles of good times only.



Airport and Luggage:

Parking:
Long stay parking – if you’ve placed your car in long stay parking, make sure the car is empty, especially the inside which is visible. Remember that means your GPS device as well if it’s removable.
If you are leaving the car with at a secure parking company, only leave the car key with them. Don’t leave the house keys on the key ring.
Luggage:
Don’t place your address on the outside of your cases. If you do use an address on the outside, use a work address or place where you know you will be readily identified.
Don’t leave luggage unattended at any time.
Locking your luggage – TSA (Travel Sentry Approved) padlocks are the best option because the airport security should be able to open them with special tools and then replace them, should they need to check inside your suitcase. Check before you pack what is and isn’t allowed, as this can save a lot of upset at a later stage, if you find you’ve taken something not allowed on the plane.
http://www.exeter-airport.co.uk/baggage-advice excellent info on what you are and aren’t allowed to take on the plane. You should also check with the specific airline you're using in case they have any rules of their own.

At the Resort:

Passport and money:
The first step is to read up about the country and resort or location your visiting, to know what to expect. In general it’s best to only carry a little money with you if you are out and about, that way if the worst happens, you have something to give, but you don’t lose too much.
If the hotel or your room has a safe, make use of it but if no safe exists, then ideally keep it in a money belt or somewhere not easily removed by pick pockets.
Waterproof pouches should also be considered especially if you’re likely to end up getting wet at any point. A few other things you can do to help yourself in case of Passport theft are:
·         Take a two photocopies of your passport and leave one with a friend and keep one with you, but not with your passport.
·         Make a note of your passport number, place and date of issue.
·         Scan a copy and email it to yourself, to enable printing out in an emergency.
·         Take a second form of photographic ID if you have one.
·         Be wary of anyone asking you to surrender your passport, such as car hire – make sure the request is legitimate.
·         Before you take your holiday, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your return date.
If anything is stolen, report it immediately (within 24hrs) and get a written report.
Avoid keeping travellers cheques and passports in the same place
When changing money, have the right money ready – avoid showing a large wallet full of money.

Pick pockets:
In many countries pick pockets will operate in areas where they know tourists are abundant, so remember to keep purses and wallets well hidden from view and handbags closed.
If someone bumps in to you – immediately check your pockets – money, phone, passports etc. Remember those that are good at this will seem so genuine and it will all happen so quickly that you may not even consider that you’ve just lost your purse.

Mobile phones / devices:
The first question you should ask is do I really need to take it with me? If the answer is yes, then consider what your holiday consists of, especially if you’re likely to be playing on the water (Sea or Pool) while away. Waterproof pouches exist, but it’s not a bad idea to make sure it works before using it for the first time.
Hotel safes would be another place to keep them, but if you need to take them with you, keep them out of sight as far as possible.

Return Trip:

Look into the regulations of that country. You may find that they have different rules in their airports. Make sure you don’t try and take anything on the plane which is not allowed. Some countries are stricter than others and some of the fines could certainly ruin an otherwise great holiday.

Home security while on holiday

Is it obvious You're on Holiday?
Clearly a good security system can make all the difference when it comes to going on holiday and leaving your home to the elements and the less the social person who decides your house is on his list to break in to.
But, although this is true, there is also a lot we can do to help deter and prevent a would be burglar from picking our home.




Today’s online social world:
Social Media – be careful what you say about holidays online. If you say anything make sure its private and ask friends and family not to publicise your going on holiday or that you’re on holiday whilst your away.

Consider the weather whilst you’re away:
You’ll generally know from experience what possible problems can occur around your home, from flooding, roof leak in sheds and garages, wind issues etc. Consider, we live in an era of freak weather, so don’t be fooled by the time of year.
Some things you might want to check are:
  • Drainage which can be blocked by leaves or other debris
  • Shed and garages with windows that get forgotten about until it rains
  • Anything that the wind could get hold of and cause damage i.e. garden furniture or exterior decorations.
  • Do you need to leave the heating on, even if only very low to ensure no pipes become frozen. Pipes that don’t freeze because of the general warmth from the house keeps them from freezing, such as pipes in the roof space or close to external walls, may need consideration.
  • External taps – turn off the water to them inside and then let the remaining water out will prevent them from freezing up and then bursting as they thaw.
  • If you have plants that need watering or may need watering if the weather is a particular way – organise a friend or relative to come look after them.

Pets:
Cats, dogs and other animals – consider if they need specialist looking after or if a friend or family member is able to help. If there are special instructions for looking after your pet, ensure you’ve bought any special foods and left exact instructions on what to do.

Deliveries:
If you have any regular deliveries, remember to cancel them while away or to have them delivered elsewhere.
Post – don’t advertise the fact that you’re away with a pile of mail by the post box. Either ask a friend or neighbour to come in and pick it up or contact the royal mail http://www.royalmail.com/personal/receiving-mail/keepsafe and ask them to keep the mail for you until you return. There is a small fee, but this is all covered on the webpage.

Creating the illusion there’s someone home:
  • Use timers to switch lights on and off as well and radio – today’s TV’s will only come onto standby mode, but if you have an older TV you may be able to have this come on as well.
  • Ask a neighbour to put out the bins on bin day, even if only to put some of their bin bags where your bin bags would normally go.
  • Ask a friend or relative to cut the grass if it’s generally cut weekly
  • If your car is normally parked in the drive and you’re taking your car, ask a neighbour or friend if they can leave their car in your driveway for some or all of the time or at least park outside your house.
  • If your car is normally parked in the garage make sure windows are covered or have frosted effect (you can buy frosted effect sticky film). This will stop someone looking in a seeing the cars not there.
  • Don’t close the curtains, because this promotes the fact you’re away during the daytime and today a large number of burglaries are committed in daylight hours.


What’s on show?
Take a walk around the property and look at what you can see when you look inside. Make sure no keys, mobiles, tablets, computers, jewellery or any easily moveable item of value is on show. Consider night time and what could be seen with a torch.
Don’t leave valuables such as jewellery in the bedroom. Ideally place them in a safe which is bolted to the floor/wall. If you don’t have a safe, hide them in less obvious areas such as kitchen, bathroom or somewhere that’s messy, such as a play room or child’s room.
Consider leaving something for them to find in the bedroom such as some costume jewellery and a small amount of money
Don’t hide everything in the same place.
If you have left instructions out for someone who comes in whilst your away, don’t leave them within easy view as this can be another indicator that your away.

Windows and doors:
Check all the window locks are properly working and that they are all closed and locked when you leave. Don’t leave the key in the back door and don’t leave the key in a visible place.
Sliding patio door – a good trick here is to cut a length of wood and place it between the fixed upright and the sliding door upright so that even if they break the lock they won’t be able to slide the door open, because it’s held in place by the wood.
Let a trusted neighbour know the dates your away and ask them to look out for any suspicious activity.
Don’t forget the sheds and garage.

Other risks:
Electrical – make sure everything is turned off (at the socket) that’s not going to be run on a timer for the illusion that you home purposes. Remember the electric shower if you have one.
Make sure all taps are fully turned off – a dripping tap left for 1 or 2 weeks will be on its way to needing repair, by the time you return.
If you are going away in winter and you have an outside tap, shut the water off to the tap and let out any water.

Ensure any shrubs, bushes or trees are cut well back so that they are not easily used to hide behind while they gain access to your property.

Insurance:
Ensure it’s up to date and that there are no hidden exclusions such as being away for a certain number of days or not covering having a house sitter if this was a route you went down to look after pets or some other aspect of the property such as the garden.
Travel insurance and medical insurance – make sure you have the required level needed if you’re going abroad. Make sure you know what happens if you have a problem abroad in the country you’re visiting.
If you’re driving clarify exactly what’s covered and who is covered if you are looking at sharing the driving or if you have an accident or if the car is stolen.

Security System:
A good alarm system will make a difference, especially if it's a CCTV or a system connected to your mobile device. If you have an alarm system make sure it's been regularly serviced and is working properly before you leave. Give any details about your alarm system to a trusted neighbour or family member, in case of a problem.

Burglary Prevention - The 4 D Sequence

Coming home to a ‘break in’ is not the ideal way to end a day or evening out, but what is clear from Government statistics is that you are much less likely to be burgled if you have good security in place. Below are 4 areas to consider when thinking about security of your home.



Deter:

A large number of burglaries in the UK are opportunistic, which means that if you make it clear there is security in place, you reduce the likely hood they will choose your property. Good external lighting will deter them at night and making sure you've locked all the windows and doors will also help. If you are out leaving a light on or having a light on a timer can also help create the illusion of someone being at home.

Deny:

The obvious one is the alarm but making sure that any back gates have quality padlocks, windows are not just shut, but have locking systems installed, garages and sheds also have quality locks and security lighting illuminates any access points.

Detect:

This can occur at different points in the process from when they first start casing the property, to when they have gained entry into the property. Sensors that monitor movement and/or heat (infra red), which then trigger an alarm or send an alert to a security company or mobile phone should all be part of the alarm system. In today’s world CCTV should ideally be included as part of the system as this will also work as a deterrent. Being part of a neighbourhood watch program can also help.

Delay:

Once they’re inside, don’t make it easy for them to find your valuables, have a safe properly installed, don’t leave items such as mobile devices, purses or cash in easy view and don’t leave car keys in clear view. The longer it takes for them to find what they’re looking for the longer you have for the response aspect to work.


The trouble with burglary is that if it hasn't happened to you the tendency is to think it won’t happen to us and to become complacent about some of the basic security measures we can take. So why not take a look at what you do regarding the above points and consider how you could improve your home security.