Off on your holidays? Before you jump on the plane, here's everything you need to know to keep your mobile safe and secure while overseas.
Planning your summer holidays? Whether your dream ticket is two weeks spent tanning on a Spanish sunbed or a busy, bustling European city break, you’ll no doubt want to switch off, chill out and relax. But before you grab your tickets and head out the door, why not take a few moments to school up on how best to protect your mobile and your data while you’re away?
What to do if your phone gets lost or stolen
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How can you keep your phone out of the hands of tourist-targeting thieves? And what should you do if it does disappear? We’ve been speaking to Vodafone’s Ross Doherty, our Senior Fraud Manager, to find out.
How to avoid ‘that sinking feeling’
With the weather getting warmer and an extra day off to play with, scores of Brits will be jumping on planes, train and boats to head abroad this summer. And with smartphones providing us with maps, snaps and the ability to brag to those back home via Twitter, Facebook, etc., that surely means that roughly the same number of handsets will be going on their holidays, too.
But how safe are you when it comes to taking your smartphone away? In a recent survey of people in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow, we found out that over half of us don’t know the right steps to take to keep our data safe. 46% of those surveyed admitted that they don’t have a good secure SIM pin or device pass code on our smartphones, while 79% don’t have valid phone insurance.
If you count yourself among those numbers, don’t panic: there’s still plenty of time to level up your mobile safety before you get to the airport. In fact, keeping yourself safe only takes a couple of minutes, as Ross explains:
“When it comes to going on holiday, one of the biggest concerns for travellers is having your phone stolen,” Ross says. “If you’ve ever lost something when you’re on holiday, you’ll know that sinking feeling all too well: it could be jewellery, something that’s sentimental, your passport or your mobile phone. And if anything like that goes missing, it feels awful.”
“Tourists are considered an easy target for thieves. My team see far too many examples of customers having their mobiles stolen when they’re overseas, because being in a new place can make people a soft target.”
“We often see are examples of customers not reporting the loss of their phone to Vodafone as quickly as they could do…”
“In the vast majority of these situations, thieves are simply looking to get hold of expensive handsets that they can sell on for cash. But we are also seeing thieves stealing phones to order, with some really sophisticated schemes that use the victim’s SIM card to make huge quantities of calls to expensive premium lines.”
Ok, so now we’re up to speed on the potential dangers, what should you do if your phone does get stolen or goes missing while you’re on holiday?
There’s only really one hugely important step: grab a friend’s phone and give us a bell as quickly as possible:
“The process of reporting from abroad is the same as in the UK except there is a different number to call,” says Ross. “If you’re in the UK you can borrow a friend’s Vodafone phone and dial 191 to contact us. But what you should do before going overseas is to take note of the international number for contacting customer services.”
That number? It’s +447836 191 191.
Remember: if you don’t have it to hand, you can always find it on vodafone.co.uk with a quick web search. Call us and we’ll get to work on the double, as Ross explains:
“Your SIM card will be blocked immediately,” he says, “so once you’ve reported it to us as stolen then no further calls will be possible from your number. It takes slightly longer to get the handset itself disabled, but the most effective thing is to get that SIM disabled as quickly as possible.”
And time really is of the essence in that situation:
“What we often see are examples of customers not reporting the loss of their phone to Vodafone as quickly as they could do,” says Ross. “Any delay will give the thieves more opportunity. So one of our big asks is that as soon as customers realise that their phone isn’t where it should be, that they get in touch with Vodafone as quickly as possible and report it.”
And because we know losing your phone and having a thief run up huge phone bills on your behalf is such a troublesome experience, we’ve teamed up with the government to ensure that, from this summer (2015), you’ll only ever pay £100 of the bill when your phone is stolen – at home or abroad – as long as you report the phone stolen to us and the police within 24 hours.
“It’s best to err on the side of caution,” he adds, “because even if the phone turns up later – even if you have just misplaced it – then it won’t be a problem to phone us up again to get the bar lifted.”
Ross’ top tips:
Up to speed? Got your passport? There’s just enough time before your flight departs to soak up Ross’ three biggest safety tips:
1. Set up a PIN lock on your phone
“You need to make sure people can’t access your personal information or make calls using your account. The reality is that we all store lots of personal information on our phones – photos, emails and maybe even passwords for our online bank accounts. It’s really important to protect that stuff by setting a good PIN or passcode on the device, which you can do under the ‘security’ section in the settings menu of most smartphones.”
2. Protect your SIM
“It’s also really important to set a PIN code on your SIM card as well. In the more organised thefts – where the SIM card is the target – if the SIM card hasn’t been protected then the thief can just put it into another device. There’s lots of advice on putting a PIN code on your SIM on vodafone.co.uk, but typically it too involves going into the settings menu on your handset and choosing the option to set up a PIN for the SIM card.”
3. Keep it on you
“What’s absolutely most important when protecting yourself from theft is just to take sensible precautions. And that’s not specific to mobile phones: it applies to keys, wallets and everything in between. Simply put, that means keeping your phone in your pocket or bag, rather than unattended. If you’re not using it, keep it out of sight. Don’t leave it on the table, keep it on you.”
Happy holidays… You can find out more about preventing fraud and staying safe right here. And if you want to feel the full benefit of taking your smartphone overseas, check out Vodafone EuroTraveller and WorldTraveller right here.