Cell phones are the coolest things these days. I mean, I struggle with mine a little bit because I finally had to upgrade to a smart phone and I’m kind of old so you know, those two things don’t always mix but I’m getting there. Even with the frustrations of accidentally calling people I had no intention of calling and randomly taking pictures of the ground, I really do appreciate all the cool stuff I can do.
Cell phones however, can make it very, very easy for someone to find you and stalk you when you don’t want them to. This is a particularly difficult situation for victims of domestic violence. Here are some random tips to keep in mind in regards to cell phone safety.
If you’re in an unhealthy relationship (or controlling, or abusive or dangerous), change your passwords and PINS immediately following or just prior to (if you can do that safely without putting yourself in danger) the breakup. IMMEDIATELY. This is really important. You want to make sure that your ex-partner cannot get into your accounts and really, it’s not the first thing you’re thinking of when you leave.
You want to make your passwords and PINS something that is not obvious or easily figured out from someone who knows you very well. This is inconvenient to say the least because it’s difficult to remember a password under good conditions (or at least it is for me) but trying to remember a new password when you’re dealing with the stress of a relationship breakup or safety concerns? Very tough. It is however, very important and should be one of the first things you do.
On that same line of thinking, changing your email entirely is actually a lot safer but if you do, don’t make it an obvious or searchable name. For instance, if your name is Jane Doe and your email was JaneD before, don’t change it to JDoe, change it to Janeisnowfreefromherabusivepartner… well, maybe not. Change it to something that doesn’t have your name in it at all. Make it difficult to find you.
Whenever you use any account that you log into, you should always log out when you’re finished. Pain in the butt I know to have to log in every time but safer? Absolutely.
Turn the Geo-locator (or equivalent) off on your phone. It is extremely easy to find someone using that feature and then you can map out their movements, figure out where they are living, watch them go to the coffee shop with a friend… It’s scary.
Never open an email attachment from your ex unless you are absolutely certain you know what it is and what it’s for. No matter how curious you are, don’t do it. This is one of the ways spyware gets installed on your computer and on your phone. Phones really are mini computers now and the same safety features you want to use to protect your computer you should also put into place for your phone. Spyware allows someone to follow you and to listen in on your calls. The abuser’s phone will ring when yours does and they can pick up and listen in on all of your calls without your knowledge. They can follow your phone online and see where you are, they can read all of your text messages, they can turn your speaker on remotely so even if you’re not on the phone but having coffee with a friend, they can turn it on and listen in to what is being said. People think that these things only happen in movies or that someone is being paranoid but I’m telling you, it happens a lot more than most people know.
Make sure your phone has a password. Another inconvenience if you’re used to just answering text messages without having to get into your phone first but a really great and easy safety feature to make it more difficult for someone to compromise your phone. See note above about passwords.
If you have an I-cloud account, someone can hack into that as a way to follow you and keep tabs on what you’re doing, steal pictures of you and so on. Make sure that is protected as much as possible, be careful and almost impossible to hack into.
Never delete threatening emails or text messages. Printing them off is great but having them on your phone and computer allows police to find out more information to either charge the person sending them or to help keep you safe.
And just for the record, skype can record everything (video and audio) and you can also record facetime conversations and you won’t know that you’ve been recorded in either of those situations.
It really is unfortunate that folks have to go to such lengths to keep themselves safe but, until we do a better job of dealing with abusers, this is a reality for many people.
For more information, check out this youtube video from Victim Services Quinte (Belleville / Napanee). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap-uYHFp_FY