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Ask The D.A.: Cell Phone Security

Kings County District Attorney Hynes offers advice on how to keep safe when it comes to electronics.


I keep reading about the danger of electronic devices being stolen while riding the subways. I am not very knowledgeable about new technology but would like to keep as safe as possible. Can you offer advice on how to best defeat a thief?

The police department offers many safety tips for subway riders including the use of designated waiting areas, riding in the conductor’s car and staying with other people during off-peak hours, remaining alert for staged distractions especially while listening to music, carrying your handbag or wallet up front, positioning yourself away from train doors and keeping electronic devices hidden from public view.

Another danger to avoid is scams being perpetrated with the use of fraudulent messages send to your smartphone via text messaging that attempt to get you to reveal sensitive information such as account numbers and passwords.  Common messages of this nature often appear to require immediate attention, and may present a formal tone such as a message from your bank informing you to call a designated number to reactivate your account which has been closed.  Another common scam is a notification that you have been enrolled for a service for which you will be charged unless you visit a website and take action.  The website will of course prove to be fraudulent.  Yet another deceptive practice involves receiving a message confirming a purchase that you in fact never made and directing you to contact a number to remedy the error.

The aim of all of these ploys is to ensnare victims and get them to divulge personal information to the scammer.  You can protect yourself at the outset by being aware of these deceptive practices.  Additionally, if the unsolicited text appears from an unknown source delete it without reading the message.  If the message seems to be from a known party do not use the telephone number provided but rather contact that source’s main telephone number and verify that legitimate business is at issue.  Banks do not forward texts calling for a response. 

Next, refrain from opening links or downloading apps from unverified sources, and never provide personal information to an unverified texter.  Also, security software can be added to your telephone.  Finally, contact your telephone provider to alert them to the messages that you have been receiving which is cause for concern.  For additional information you can visit the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

This brief list of suggestions is by no means a complete list of every measure that can be taken. Should you have further questions please contact my Citizen’s Action Center at (718) 250-2340, as well as my Neighborhood Offices located throughout the county who can provide assistance and appropriate referrals if you suspect fraud. The hotline for my Neighborhood Offices is (718) 250-2555 for a location nearest you.

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