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Protect Your Phone and Financial Life

By Paul J. Carroll, CFP®May 17, 2024May 20th, 2024Videos

I am on my way for a short vacation. I’m really excited about it, and as I was getting ready for this vacation, I learned a new risk facing smartphone owners and I think everybody needs to know about it.

I’m in Doha, Qatar, the number one airport in the entire world. It’s a fantastic experience if you’re transiting. There are crowds here. Everybody’s got an expensive phone and there’s a risk. When you look around anywhere in public today, it can be in the city streets, it can be at stadiums, it can be at an airport, people are walking around and they’re looking at their phone, they’re looking for directions, they’re reading texts. It doesn’t matter. Those phones are all unlocked and they are now targets for the newest theft – unlocked phones.

A locked phone on the street’s worth about a hundred dollars, but an unlocked phone with the password changed can be worth thousands and thousands of dollars because now they have the keys to your financial life, your personal life, your work. Organized criminals have figured out that they can “shoulder surf” and shoulder surfing may be done with a camera at a distance. They can get your pin. If they get your pin, they don’t even have to wait for it to be unlocked. They’ll go by on a bicycle or some other device or they’ll just run. They’ll bump into you. They’ll grab the phone and immediately they reach in, they turn off your location and they change your password. So you can’t go to another device and lock them out. Now they’ve got the password changed. They know what the password is.

They’ve got time to do terrible damage, fraud, theft, blackmailing, depending on what’s on your telephone. One of the things I learned is that these days mobile phones are now stolen even more than cash and credit cards. They are the new organized crime for sure, and a lot of people aren’t really aware of that. They’re not attuned to that. In fact, mobile phone theft is increased by more than 30% in just the last six months. So as you imagine, these people are predators, but they’re also smart.

There are things that you can do. One, have a difficult password. Two, be conscious of where you are just like you are when you use your ATM card as to who might be watching and put in the password. Three, in public don’t be using the phone unlocked unless you have a compelling reason to do, because the risk period is when the phone is unlocked.

There’s also some things you can do with the phone. iOS now has a stolen phone protection mode that everyone should turn on. Briefly, what it does is detect if you’re changing the password and you’re not at home, and in that scenario, it locks the password change for one hour, giving someone, if your phone was stolen, the opportunity for one hour to block access to that phone against the criminals. That’s a great new feature. Another feature that’s been available for a long time is a faulty password entry. If they steal your phone, they think they got your password, they’ve been snooping, they’re one digit off, they keep trying. From the 10th try it will wipe the phone. Well, that wipes the phone, so be sure you’re backing up your phone to the cloud. All these things are things you should do, especially if you’re not willing to take off everything that could hurt you from your phone. Don’t put every single credit card you got in the wallet. Don’t have every single financial app you might use. Only have what you would really need in a compelling situation. If you have an iPad Mini or some other device that you wouldn’t be using while walking around the street, maybe that’s the device for more sensitive uses. At Avion Wealth, we put together a program called Intelligent Wealth Protection. If this is of value to you, we have many more options. Reach out.

We wish you the best of investing success.



Founder & CEO at Avion Wealth

Paul is the founder and CEO of Avion Wealth, LLC. He leads a team of wealth managers in building and executing financial plans for high net worth individuals and families. Contact Avion Wealth to speak with a financial advisor.