(WPRI) -- Police say you could be putting yourself at risk, just by how you use your smart phone. Criminals could get their hands on your passwords and personal information if you're not careful about how you store and share them. But we've learned there are five simple steps you can take to prevent your smart phone from making you a target for crooks.
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Just a few taps on the screen of your cell phone, and your email, contacts, and social networks pop right up.
"I use it all the time, like crazy," says Jamee Huffman of Warwick about her smart phone.
You'd think most people would keep that kind of information locked up with a password. But we've learned that's not the case.
"I just have this where you just swipe it and that's how you get onto it," say Huffman. There's no password needed to get into her phone. Jessica Solis of Providence doesn't use a password either. "I just decided I didn't need it. So I just changed it to, I just slide it open," she says.
Security experts say many of us are skipping the first and most important step to avoiding identity theft. "Everyone should have a password on their computer and they should have a password on their cell phone," says Lieutenant Todd Catlow of the Rhode Island State Police.
Step one: Use a password on your phone. It sounds simple, so why do so many of us skip it? "I just decided it would be easier," says Jessica Solis.
The Computer Crimes Unit at the Rhode Island State Police has a simple response to that. "The time you're going to spend correcting an identity theft is much greater than the inconvenience you're going to have plugging in the pass code," says Lieutenant Catlow.
Next, don't store sensitive data on your phone. "You really need to avoid putting full legal names in," says Lieutenant Catlow, "dates of birth, social security numbers." Also, be careful when opening text messages or emails from people you don't know. And never send sensitive information like passwords via text or email.
Finally, take a look at your contacts. "I have my mom, my dad, everybody else just named who they are," says Brian Sical of Providence. We've learned that could be a big mistake if a thief gets ahold of your phone.
"If someone obtains your phone," says Lieutenant Catlow, "and they send a text message to your mother and it comes up on her phone as you, and asks for personal information from her, she's more than likely going to give it."
Step five: Don't identify your closest contacts with titles like "Mom" and "Dad."
"I didn't even know that you're not supposed to do that," says Jamee Huffman. "That's crazy. I've always had it under 'mom' and stuff like that." Jessica Solis says, "I might change my contacts. That's interesting."
State police also tell us it's important to talk to your closest contacts, and tell them it's only ok to share your passwords and information if you talk to them in person, or call them directly.
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