Homeowners insurance blog

Don’t Be Dumb When Using Your Smartphone

The majority of the population has smartphones, and most people are guilty of going about their days constantly checking text messages, emails, and social media sites. We can all relate. Waiting for your coffee at Starbucks? Check your email in the meantime. Having lunch for one? Maybe do a little online shopping, pay some bills, live-tweet the conversation of the couple sitting a table over, or browse Instagram and Facebook – the world is your oyster!

Most of us seem attached at the hip to their smartphones, and some people are actually addicted. Have you ever lost your phone and felt a wave of panic wash over your entire body? You’re not alone. The average adult spends more than five hours per day on cellphones and tablets, according to an eMarketer study. Maybe more of us are addicted than we think.

With so much time spent looking at the pocket-sized gateway to the Internet, make sure you’re using your smartphone sensibly (and that doesn’t even count the so-obvious-we-won’t-even-list-it prohibition against texting and driving.

Here are a few tips:

Don’t let your guard down when using public Wi-Fi

Let’s go back to that lunch for one scenario. When you’re sitting at the table by yourself, you may wonder what the other patrons are thinking of you. “Does he/she not have any friends?” is one question that has to come to mind.

So to distract yourself from the judgment of others, you take to your smartphone. Maybe you choose to browse Amazon and order a new book to read. Or maybe you want to take care of your finances and pay a few bills while waiting for your food. If you’re connected to public Wi-Fi and enter your credit/debit card information, other diners could access it.

Always use protected networks because you never know when hackers could be lurking and waiting for someone to absentmindedly make one wrong step. Or just wait to enter such sensitive information until you’re in the privacy of your home.

Speaking of your home; standard home insurance policies typically won’t protect you in the event that your identity is stolen. You would have to purchase separate identity theft coverage. Even then, you may only be covered for some of the costs of recovering your identity – not for you losses. This form of protection can be a little tricky, so speak with your insurance provider to learn more about it.

Use simple forms of protection

Using a lock screen on your phone or tablet is a basic form of defense that can protect your device, information, and identity from being stolen. According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports, 3.1 million smartphones were stolen and an additional 1.4 million were lost in 2013.

By using a lock screen, you can prevent thieves from accessing important information on your mobile device or from being able to pawn it to get some extra cash.

If your device is stolen, it may be covered by your home insurance policy’s contents coverage. However, such a small claim may not be worth it. For one thing, the cost of the phone might not exceed your deductible – the amount you agree to pay toward a claim. In addition, filing multiple claims in one year could result in higher premiums.

Be aware of your social media posts

Say you post a cute photo of your son or daughter playing at the park with a geo tag or update your status to say that you’re heading out of town for a few days. Especially if your profile is public, this could put a bull’s-eye on your home for potential thieves. If they see online that you’ll be gone for hours or days at a time, they could make their move and nab valuable items in your home.

Again, this plays into the contents coverage portion of your home insurance. You may be covered for stolen, damaged, or destroyed property, but depending on your policy and what or how much thieves are able to grab, coverage could get complicated. Thieves would aim to steal items with high values (ex: jewelry). More expensive items such as jewelry and artwork are usually only covered up to $2,000 unless otherwise specified, meaning that your belongings may not be completely covered in the event of a burglary.

Err on the side of caution and limit posts alerting the Internet that you’ll be away from home. Post vacation pictures when you get back and consider investing in a home security system. The latter could even earn you discounts on your policy!

Be aware of your surroundings

When you’re walking around town, the office, or anywhere else, for that matter, watch where you’re going. You would think that that warning would be common sense, but have you noticed how many people walk around with their heads down, engaging in whatever text conversation or blog post is entertaining them at the time? The number of people doing this is alarmingly high.

According to Smithsonian.com, in 2004, 559 people received medical treatment after walking straight into telephone poles while looking at their smartphones. In 2010, that number jumped to 1,500. Keep in mind that this study only addressed people walking into telephone poles, not other objects or other people.

Keep yourself and others from harm, and watch where you’re walking. As with driving, texts and social media can – and should – wait until you get to your destination.