Domestic Violence: 10 Tips on Cell Phone Safety & Privacy

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This is part 4 of a 4-part series:

Read Part 1: Domestic Violence: A Growing Problem
Read Part 2: Domestic Violence: There Is No “Typical Victim”
Read Part 3: Domestic Violence: What Nurses Can Do

Technology can have a major impact on survivors of abuse. It can be used by a victim to access help, to strategically maintain safety and privacy, and to remain connected to family and friends. Technology is often used to prove guilt and hold offenders accountable. Yet, in its various forms, technology is also misused by abusers and perpetrators in crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking.

  1. Put a pass code on your phone. This will make it harder for someone to pick up your phone to scroll through, access accounts, or install something malicious.
  2. Turn off location sharing. Most phones have a GPS that can pinpoint your general or exact location. Many smartphones give you the option of managing your location sharing under the “settings.”
  3. Turn off Bluetooth when not in use. Bluetooth allows your phone to communicate with other devices, such as the hands-free option in your car or printer. Turn off the Bluetooth on your phone and turn it on only when needed to prevent someone from accessing your information or intercept your calls.
  4. Review the apps you download. If you have an unfamiliar app, delete it. Depending on the app, it could be accessing private information or could be a monitoring program.
  5. Put a password on your wireless carrier account to keep others from accessing your account. Your wireless carrier can put additional security on your account, so that only someone with a password can make changes to your account.
  6. Lock down your online phone account. Online accounts can include your wireless carrier account, call logs, your email or social media accounts, your Google Play/Apple App Store, or iCloud account. Update the passwords and security questions regularly.
  7. Use virtual phone numbers to keep your number private. Google Voice or a throwaway number are options so you don’t have to give out your actual phone number.
  8. Try not to store sensitive information on your phone. The less sensitive information you have, the less likely someone else can access it.
  9. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your phone. This software should be on our smartphones as well as our computers. Search for programs in the app stores; some phones come with built-in software that you don’t want to override.
  10. Take care when using safety apps. There are many “personal safety apps” available for download that offer to increase the users’ personal safety immediately connecting them with 911 or select trusted individuals. Several of these apps are marketed to survivors of violence. Before relying on a safety app, be sure to test it out with friends and family. Always know the quickest way to access 911 on your phone.

References:

10 Tips on Cell Phone Safety & Privacy (Autumn 2017). LINKS: Vol. 32, No. 3, pg. 1.

* Family Sunshine Center Newsletter