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9 tips for a safer smartphone Christmas

19 December 2016, David Owen, Senior Communications Executive
9 tips for a safer smartphone xmas

Christmas is just around the corner and for many people a new smartphone will be high on their gift list for Santa.

Smartphones provide access to games, videos, information and music at the tips of your fingers as well as the opportunity to pay for content, goods and services to your phone bill. As with any device, knowing how to protect it and what you can potentially be charged for is important in being able to make the most of the technology.

Here are nine top tips for protecting your smartphone this festive season and to help avoid any nasty New Year surprises. 

  1. Guard your phone, and set PINS and passwords
    Think of your phone as being like a bank card. Protect your phone against unauthorised use by setting a PIN, swipe pattern or password for you home screen. You can usually do this through the ‘settings’ feature on your phone.

    Watch Ofcom’s guides on how to do this on some popular handsets.  
  2. Don’t override your smartphone’s security settings
    Removing restrictions placed on a device’s operating system compromises the security of your device. Doing so may leave you more vulnerable to malicious software and is likely to invalidate your manufacturer’s warranty.
  3. Install apps from a trusted sources
    Download your apps from official stores such as the App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Store - check reviews and research the app. Avoid apps from unauthorised sources, such as ‘bulletin boards’ or ‘peer-to-peer’ networks.

    Rogue apps can potentially do a variety of things including, take control of a handset, incur charges via premium SMS without your permission, make calls and download content.
  4. Use antivirus software
    It’s not just rogue apps that pose a threat to your smartphone. Viruses and spyware can be downloaded from websites or by connecting your device to an infected computer.

    To find out more, visit Get Safe Online.
  5. Accept updates and patches
    Occasionally, your smartphone manufacturer may send you a message proposing an update to your operating system. Similarly, app developers may propose updates to their app.

    It is advisable to accept these updates. As well as typically offering new features and improving your phone's performance, they can also fix security vulnerabilities.
  6. Watch what you click on when browsing online
    Know what you are agreeing to before you click an online promotion as you may be agreeing to a chargeable service.

    Be informed when entering your number online. Make sure you know how your number will be used as you could be consenting to charges through your phone bill.
  7. Check your phone bill regularly
    If you spot an unexpected charge, check it with your network or by contacting the service provider. Your network should be able tell you what the charge is for, who the service provider is and how to contact them. You can also check the details of a phone-paid service using our online number checker.
  8. Don’t ignore a STOP message
    If you receive a message with information about how to stop a service, don’t ignore it. If you do not wish to receive a service, reply STOP or STOP ALL to the shortcode (5-digit number, usually beginning with 5, 6, 7 or 8) provided. This should stop any future charges from that service. 
  9. Stay in the know
    We’ve created PhoneBrain, a website for children explaining how phone-paid services work,
    top tips to avoid ‘bill shock’ and other advice for young people and parents.

    Get Safe Online also has advice on safe smartphone and tablet use including how to protect against viruses and spyware.

Have a happy Christmas and New Year from all at the Phone-paid Services Authority.

Part of this advice is taken from a guide produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office, Ofcom, the then Office of Fair Trading and the Phone-paid Services Authority.

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