Lost phones prone to identity theft, finders poke around

Phones intentionally left in bathrooms, bars and on public transportation were hacked within minutes, according to the study. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

WASHINGTON – Many Americans have lost their cell phone before, and wondered if the person who recovered their phone might try to access personal information.

Symantec, the company behind Norton Anti-Virus software, wanted to know too so it intentionally lost 50 smart phones in cities across the U.S. And Canada, including Washington, D.C.

Symantec tells MSN only half of the phones were returned.

The company tracked the phones live as soon as they “lost” them. Those who found the phones almost immediately started using them, the company found.

Before the phones that were returned made it back to their owners, 43 percent of the finders accessed apps labeled online banking, Symantec said.

Fifty-three percent of the phone rescuers clicked on the “HR salaries app” and 72 percent clicked on a folder labeled private photos, according to the company.

Apparently, even the well-intentioned can be nosy.

The company says losing an unlocked phone is similar to losing your wallet since applications can often directly connect the user to account numbers and bank information. To ward off potential identity theft, the company suggests consumers not save financial passwords and password protect their cell phones.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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