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BMO Harris Bank Financial Tip of the Week: How to Protect Your Identity on Smartphones

CHICAGO, IL -- (Marketwire) -- 01/03/13 -- As part of BMO Harris Bank's ongoing commitment to financial literacy and Making Money Make Sense, BMO Harris is providing weekly financial tips. This week's tip provides ways to safeguard your identity while using your Smartphone.

A recent study found Smartphone users are at a 33 percent increased risk for identity theft. However, there are things you can do to stay one step ahead and protect your identity.

BMO Harris Bank recommends the following strategies to keep your information from falling into the wrong hands:

Password protect your phone. This is the first step you should take toward protecting your identity. In the event your phone is lost or stolen, a password creates a barrier against thieves trying to access your information. Make sure the password you select is unique and not associated with other personal information (i.e. your address, phone number or birthday).

Be selective when downloading apps. While many programs are safe to use, some are actually tools created by identity thieves to collect and distribute your personal information. Before downloading an app, make sure it's from a secure source and read the description to find out what personal data is collected. If it seems suspicious, skip it.

Be careful using public Wi-Fi. Although it's tempting to tap into public Wi-Fi zones, these hotspots are frequently targeted by hackers looking to gain access to your personal information. A better bet is using your network provider connection, even if it dips into your data plan. If you must use a public connection, avoid email, online banking or buying anything with a credit card number.

Use basic computer smarts. Just as you wouldn't visit suspicious websites or open questionable links on your personal computer, you shouldn't do these things when using your phone. Also, remember to check that a site is secure before providing personal or financial information for logging in or purchasing items. The easiest way to check is by looking for "https" versus "http" in your address bar.

Use social media with caution. Many people use their Smartphones to update their social media accounts. But don't forget that in addition to your family and friends seeing these updates, identity thieves are also tapped in. Remember that anything you post on a public site can be seen by other people so you should make sure that you don't include personal information in these updates.

Put yourself in a comfortable place and get started with helpful steps.

The Learning Center is brought to you by BMO Harris Bank, WGN, CLTV, WGN AM 1070, Chicago Tribune, RedEye and Hoy.

About BMO Harris Bank

Based in Chicago, BMO Harris Bank N.A. provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions through over 600 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. BMO Harris Bank's commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the U.S. Deposit and loan products and services provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. BMO Harris BankSM is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. BMO Harris Bank is part of BMO Financial Group, a North American financial organization with 1,600 branches, and a retail deposit base of approximately $180 billion.

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