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ID Theft Watch: One iPhone App Too ManyBlogPrivacyIdentity TheftTechnology


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"Frustrated Man With Mobile Phone">, via Anna Bizoa, ThinkStock.

“Frustrated Man With Mobile Phone”>, via Anna Bizoa, ThinkStock.

My name is Adam and I own an iPhone.

In that regard, I’m not alone. I have about 85 million fellow iPhone “friends.”

Sure, that’s about 415 million fewer friends than Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook. But still, 85 million is no trifling number.

Even more telling, The New York Times reports that iPhone users are purported to be more sexually active than Blackberry or Android users. While flattering, I can’t vouch for that statistic, but I’ll ask a few of my colleagues (one of whom runs Credit.com) if they’re as randy as the venerable Times says they are.

But I’m drawing the line with an iPhone app called GoMobileProtection.com. I’m told it’s one of the top 50 sellers in the iPhone application store.

Here’s the deal. GoMobile’s Protection App is a free identity theft protection application that, according to the company’s web site, “proactively alerts you to identity theft risks, protecting you before your good name has been damaged.” In addition to your identity scan and score, the Protection iPhone App ensures financial restitution in the event of a breach, backed by a $1,000,000 dollar guarantee that is so comprehensive it even covers stolen ATM funds.

“We protect you 24/7 by proactively scoring and scanning your personal information and help prevent misuse of your information by sending instant alerts to your iPhone,” the company adds.

Before I go any further, in the interest of transparency and fairness, I must declare that in addition to my iPhone, and Credit.com, I own Identity Theft 911.

I also have no axe to grind with the folks at GoMobileProtection.com. We’re not really competitors. Identity Theft 911 is a business-to-business to model, with 470 institutional clients who have enrolled approximately 12.5 million households (that represents about 30 million people) in one or more of our programs. GoMobileProtection.com differs in that its blueprint relies on a direct-to-consumer model.

So we’re vastly different. But since both firms are in the identity theft marketplace, it’s fair to point out that if you’re going to run an identity protection business that requires consumers to fork over their personal information—then you’d better be upfront about who you are and how your company works.

However, I’m not sure that’s the case here…

When you sign up for the GoMobile app, you’re asked to provide sensitive personal financial data, with no idea who’s asking for that information, what they’re going to do with it, or how they are going protect it. At first, GoMobile only requests basic information – your name, address and zip code. But, according to the company, once you’re a member you can “enter more information in order to get a detailed risk evaluation.” The more the evaluation “knows about you, the better job it can do.”

To me, “more information” means more personal financial data, and I’m just not comfortable (nor should you be) offering up that kind of information to a cell phone app – especially when I really don’t know who or what is behind it.

Think about that. Normally, you’d never hand over personal data to a perfect stranger, but that’s exactly what GoMobileProtection (and by extension Apple, which should know better) is asking you to do. We’re taught early on in life never to speak to strangers, so why would we seek protection from an identity theft firm that presents nothing more than its name and its stated desire to get personal information from us?

We are taking a hard look at the services behind the GoMobileProtection.com app and will be back to you shortly on our findings. (Update: read them here).

In the meantime, know this – you are the ultimate guardian of your private data.

If you believe that the only portfolio you have (or may have) in your life is your investment portfolio, you’re wrong. Each of us has a credit portfolio and identity portfolio as well. Both are assets and are just as valuable and as vulnerable as our investment portfolios. The only difference is that each of us is in the best position to responsibly manage those two portfolios.

Consequently, “job one” is to not give your private information to anyone who asks for it, simply because they promise to protect you – and that includes cell phone applications.

Don’t just take my word for it, here is what the Consumer Federation of America’s ID Theft Service Best Practice Group (composed of companies that provide identity theft services, consumer organizations and consumer agencies) says in the third bullet point of its position paper entitled, Nine Things to Check When Shopping for Identity Theft Services:

3. Does the identity theft service make basic information about the company easy to find on its Web site? If the answer is no, steer clear! Identity theft service providers that follow good practices will provide basic information such as the company name, the physical location of its headquarters, and how to contact it or its product distributor directly for answers to questions.
It’s a good list and one well worth checking.

Another resource to check out is Credit.com’s Five Privacy Questions to Ask Any Business. Before you reveal any sensitive personal information to any business, make sure you know who they are and what they plan on doing with that information.

Remember, nobody can guarantee the safety of your critical information, or prevent it from being stolen or abused. That’s up to you. Be vigilant, be cautious, and always be on the case.

Originally posted at Credit.com.

That goes double when it comes to “cyber-strangers” asking you for access to the information contained in your identity portfolio.

Only you can guarantee that.