7 Steps to Better Secure Your Smartphone

For the vast majority of American adults, smartphones and other mobile devices have become an increasingly prominent part of everyday life — and seem to be with us (or at least within easy reach) nearly all the time. In fact, according to the most recent research available from the Pew Research Center, nearly nine in 10 Americans owned a smartphone as of 2021 — more than double the 35% from a decade earlier. And surveys show that almost half of Americans report spending five to six hours a day on their smartphones, a figure that doesn’t even account for work-related use of the devices.

Of course, our nearly ubiquitous mobile devices excel at keeping us informed and well-connected, and they can make our lives easier in many ways. But unfortunately, they can also expose us to a range of security risks presented by digital fraudsters. Consider this: The number of suspected digital fraud attempts jumped by 122% in the U.S. between 2019 and 2022, and reporting suggests that more than 60% of digital fraud happens on mobile devices.

Stay safer with these 7 mobile device security tips

While digital fraud attempts may be on the rise, smartphone users can substantially lower their risks of falling victim to them by taking a handful of precautions geared toward mobile device security.

Looking for tips on how to secure a mobile device? To keep your sensitive information and your money better protected, consider taking these seven safety-focused steps geared specifically toward enhancing security on mobile devices:

  1. Don’t make device access easy — There are a number of ways to make it harder for thieves to gain access to your personal information should your mobile device ever be lost or stolen. Among them, a good first step is to ensure that the screen lock function on your device is enabled. This feature will (as the name implies) lock your device’s screen after a user-selected span of inactivity, then require a passcode, fingerprint or a facial-recognition scan to get the device to unlock again. Follow these instructions to adjust the auto-lock setting on an iPhone, and use this guide to adjust the screen-lock settings on an Android device.
  2. Turn on remote tracking — Speaking of lost or stolen smartphones, by turning on your device’s remote tracking feature, you’ll have a powerful and tech-savvy way to track it down if you’re ever in a situation where you can’t find it. This feature, known as Find My on Apple devices and Find My Device on Android devices, uses your phone’s geolocation functionality to help you pinpoint its location (using another internet-connected device) should you ever need to retrieve it. And if you can’t, it will also let you send a message to the phone that can help anyone who finds it return it to you, or remotely erase all the data from your device to prevent any sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
  3. Employ strong passwords and PINs — Another top way to step up your online security — both on mobile and desktop devices — is to use hard-to-crack passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers). For passwords, the most effective options include at least eight characters and incorporate a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, and well as a mix of lowercase and capitalized letters. They should avoid using easy-to-guess (or otherwise glean) elements such as birthdays or names of family members. And to avoid unwanted account access in the wake of a data breach, it’s highly recommended that consumers use different passwords for their various online accounts — and especially for ones where any financial information like credit card numbers may be stored. For PINs, if the option is available, choosing to employ longer character lengths will make them harder to crack with each character added. And as with passwords, it’s best to avoid numbers such as birthdays that could be easily figured out by fraudsters.
  4. Always stay wary of phishing/smishing attempts — Common tactics used by digital thieves, phishing and smishing seek to trick recipients into revealing their personal or financial information by sending them fake emails (phishing) or fake texts (smishing) that look to be from legitimate businesses or organizations. To avoid falling victim to these, always be especially careful about clicking on links, downloading attachments or calling phone numbers provided via unsolicited email or text messages. Instead, contact the business or organization via its official, verified phone number or website to confirm that the messaging you’ve received is legitimate. And if the messaging you receive attempts to convey an extreme sense of urgency, step up your skepticism even more.
  5. Use caution when downloading apps — Much like they use phishing and smishing in an attempt to steal your personal and financial information via fake emails and texts, fraudsters have also pushed fake apps out into the digital world. They do this in hopes of stealing similar info from users who are tricked into downloading them. To ensure that any apps you download are legitimate and safe, avoid downloading them (or following links to them) from third-party sites. Instead, visit the Apple App Store or Google Play store and perform a search for the app you’re seeking. In nearly all cases, if an app is legitimate, it will be available for download there.
  6. Look out for ‘shoulder surfers’ — Especially when using your mobile device in crowded places, be wary of any “shoulder surfers” who may be watching as you key in your username/password information or view any personal, financial or otherwise sensitive details. If you suspect a stranger may be sneaking a peek at your screen, it’s a good idea to avoid entering or looking at any information that might enable the onlooker to later access your accounts or devices.
  7. Wipe your device before selling it, trading it in or recycling it — When you get a new mobile device or are otherwise getting rid of an old one, be sure to delete any sensitive information that could find its way into the wrong hands down the road. The details on how to erase all content and settings from an Apple device can be found here, while the information for doing the same on an Android device can be found here.

Looking for more ways to enhance your security in the digital world? Our Arthur State Bank blog article titled “7 Simple and Effective Ways to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime” offers more details on some of the tactics discussed above. The article also provides additional tactics that can help you reduce your risks of falling victim to online security threats, whether you’re on a mobile device or a desktop device.

Arthur State Bank graphic
Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.