Mobile phones are a vital part of life. You may store passwords, account numbers, phone numbers, addresses all in this one device. If your phone is lost or stolen, your privacy, identity, and bank accounts could also be in jeopardy.
Cell phone carriers and manufacturers have taken steps to protect you, in these situations. The carriers manage stolen phone databases, where they can record your phone’s unique ID number when you report it missing. This makes it impossible for your lost or stolen phone to be reactivated on their network (also called “bricking”).
There are also apps available to help you locate your phone. Take steps to protect your phone’s content and your privacy:
Set up a PIN or password to access your phone’s home screen and settings.
Export and backup your sensitive information onto an external device, like a USB drive.
Report your lost or stolen phone to your cell phone carrier and the police immediately. Keep your cell phone provider’s phone number in a separate place so that you can report your lost phone. Ask for written confirmation from your carrier to verify that you reported your phone missing.
If you report your phone lost or stolen to your carrier, you are responsible for all fees incurred before you report it, but no charges after you report it missing.
Ask your carrier to remotely delete the content, contacts and apps on your phone.
Get more information on lost cell phones from the FCC
In the last few years, many states have passed laws about how drivers can use cellphones while in their cars. Each state’s laws are slightly different. Here’s a general overview of what you need to know about cellphone use in cars.
- Handheld Cell Phones: Nine states, Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
- All Cell Phone Use: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but many prohibit cell phone use by novice drivers and school bus drivers.
- Text Messaging: 34 states, Washington D.C. and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. Three states restrict school bus drivers from texting while driving.
Some states such as Maine, New Hampshire and Utah treat cell phone use and texting as part of a larger distracted driving issue. In Utah, cellphone use is an offense only if a driver is also committing some other moving violation (other than speeding).
Learn more about the laws in your state and find a full list of cellphone use laws in all states.
You may have received an email telling you cell phones will start to get unwanted telemarketing calls unless you add your wireless number to a special Do-Not-Call Registry.
However, placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is, and always has been, illegal.
It is unlawful for anyone to place a call using an automatic telephone dialing system or a prerecorded voice message to a telephone number assigned to a paging service, mobile telephone service or any service for which the called party is charged for the call. This applies whether or not your cell phone number is listed on a Do-Not-Call list.
If you receive unwanted calls that you believe violate the do-not-call rules, you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
There is no scientific proof that cell phone radiation shields significantly reduce exposure from cell phone emissions, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
A “shield” is any product that claims to block radiation from harming someone using a cell phone.
But scam artists might still try to sell the so-called “shields.” Products that only block one part of the phone are ineffective because the entire phone can emit electromagnetic waves. Phony radiation shields might actually emit more radiation if they draw more power from the device.
While health studies are still ongoing, the FTC offers tips on reducing your exposure to cell phone emissions:
- Use an earpiece or the speakerphone feature as often as possible
- Keep calls brief and text when you can
- Wait for a strong signal; phones emit more radiation when they have a weak signal and are looking for service
- When purchasing a new phone, look at its specific absorption rate (SAR) which will tell you how much radiation your body absorbs while using the phone
Learn more about radiation shield scams.