Listen to the experienced private investigator: Public Enemy Number One – your phone

Protect Yourself From Mobile Phone Fraud

How many times a day do you look at your mobile phone? How would you feel it it got lost or stolen?

The mobile phone is now as much a part of our everyday lives as the car or the TV, For most of us, to be without it is unthinkable.

Actually ringing someone on a mobile phone is probably the least likely thing most people do. With what is essentially a fully functioning internet-enabled computer in your pocket, we use our phones for all our daily needs: we message friends, we take pictures, we do our banking, we order food, we shop, we find our way, we keep up-to-date with the news…the list is endless.

Over the last decade or so, the mobile phone has played an increasingly significant role when it comes to crime. It is a role that has seen both positive and negative impacts,

Although difficult to prove a direct correlation, it would appear reasonable to assume that the mobile phone has helped in the reduction and deterrent of certain crimes. For example, the fact that the vast majority of phones all have good quality cameras means that the general public are now able to take photos of crime scenes as a crime is happening – the snapshot of a car number plate in a hit and run, a mugger fleeing the scene, an altercation in the street, the road position of vehicles in a traffic accident.

Most schoolchildren are now equipped with a trusty mobile. A quick call can reassure an anxious or vulnerable child that help is never far away.

The commonly held perception is that our phones make us feel safe. If you are a lone woman and your car breaks down on a deserted road late at night, being able to call for help without having to leave your vehicle is an unquestionable benefit.

But increasingly the mobile phone plays a more sinister role and is actually a vehicle for a crime to be committed.

There are obvious examples, such as online fraud when using your phone to buy goods or do your banking. In our experience, many people have good security on their laptops or tablets at home, but do not think about adding security to their mobiles. But the technology is essentially the same. In fact a mobile is easier for criminals to attack, especially given the number of freely available wifi spots. A banking transaction carried out on an unprotected phone over a public wifi is a hacker’s dream come true.

Then there are the slightly less obvious examples. The past couple of years has seen an exponential rise in “Revenge Pornography”, often carried out via mobile phone. “Sexting” and sending compromising pictures are commonplace, especially amongst the under 30s, and the mobile is the easiest vehicle through which to do this. All harmless enough when restricted to two consenting adults, but lack of security and the breakdown of relationships has led to the public sharing of once private messages and images, sometimes with devastating consequences.

In December 2015, a new crime of Controlling or Coercive behaviour was introduced in the UK as part of the government’s attempt to crack down on domestic abuse. The mobile phone has played a role here too. The controlling partner now has the ability to install apps on their partner’s phone which can track and report back their every move. A common complaint from abused women is that their abusive partner would look at their mobile phone to see where they had been and who they had been talking to, which adds another dimension to an already difficult situation.

As private investigators, we have witnessed first hand the role the mobile phone plays in many different crime scenarios. We of course use them ourselves, and there is no doubt that our job has been made a lot easier in many respects.

But it would be foolish not to acknowledge their capacity for misuse. Our advice, as ever, is to protect yourself from potential mobile phone fraud.

Don’t restrict internet security to the confines of your home. That mini computer in your pocket is a crime waiting to happen. You have been warned…