If you’re like me, you get lots of e-mails from well-meaning friends and family talking about some dire situation or another, and many of them end up being hoaxes.  However, I received one from my wife today that does raise an issue that anyone with portable electronic devices needs to address.

The story goes like this: someone had their car broken into while they were at a football game.  Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard.  When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game and what time it was scheduled to finish, so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house.

The same applies to devices like cell phones.  The e-mail went on to describe an incident where a woman’s handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc., was stolen.  20 minutes later when she called her husband from a pay phone telling him what had happened, he said “I received your text asking about our pin number and I’ve replied a little while ago.”   When they rushed down to the bank, they were told that all the money was already withdrawn.  The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text ‘hubby’ in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.

Whether these stories are true or a hoax, they describe something that COULD happen.  All of us should check the memories of our electronic devices and make sure that their memories do not contain anything easily identifiable to a thief.   Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc., and, very importantly, when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back. Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet ‘family and friends’ who text you.

The mobile lawyer needs to depend on these electronic devices every day, and they often contain confidential information.  We need to keep in mind that these things are portable, thus subject to theft, and as such must be configured to avoid disaster should they fall into the wrong hands.