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Secure Your Phone While Traveling

If you think traveling out of the country will disconnect you from your cellphone contacts…in most cases it doesn’t do that, at least not completely. Most people require use of their cellphone while traveling—mainly to keep in touch with family members, kids, etc. (Not necessarily for work – you’re on vacation, right?) Plus, having your smartphone can make everything easier—from Google and Translate and Maps, to apps like Tripadvisor and your airline’s app to receive trip updates.

But as you travel the country or abroad, there a few things to keep in mind and prepare in advance for keeping your data private while enjoying the convenience:

1. Lock your screen.
This may be the most important thing you can do while traveling. You should use the lock screen function on your phone so that if someone steals it, they don’t have access to all the information on your phone (like your credit union or banking apps and many others.) Ways to lock your screen include passwords and fingerprint scanning. Experts advise against the unlock swipe where you draw a pattern. Sometimes people can see what the pattern is, which could make cracking it a lot easier.

2. Using international SIM cards.
If you are traveling abroad, you might want to obtain an international SIM card that you can use in most countries in the world. You can often switch your SIM card to a different phone, provided the phone is unlocked (meaning, it is not tied to a particular carrier or device). International SIM cards are all about convenience. Rather than pay to answer calls when you travel to other countries, an international SIM card will enable you to receive calls for free in many countries. Plus, some international SIMs give you free incoming calls in 95 of the most traveled countries.

Having one SIM for multi-country trips is less of a hassle, and offer these benefits:

    • You can manage all your money in an online account without any language barriers.
    • You get low rates for talk, texts and data.
    • You get more coverage than the average SIM as international SIM cards are designed specifically for traveling.
    • Having a predefined phone number before you even leave the country will allow you to share it with the people who matter the most.

3. Be cautious about Wi-Fi.
Being able to bank and check e-mail and Facebook on the fly is great, but you need to be careful about it. If you are OK about using any free Wi-Fi that is available because it’s convenient, remember that your connection might not be encrypted, allowing hackers to access your personal information. This also means that anyone using the same Wi-Fi network could potentially see what you are doing on your smartphone while you are connected. What should you do? Disable services such as AirDrop and File Sharing when not in use. Limit what you do on public Wi-Fi and avoid logging in to accounts that have sensitive information such as banking and e-mail.

4. Be sure to set up a two-step verification.
Set up two-step verification (pdf) on your account. It offers a bit more security.

5. Delete unneeded apps and update existing apps regularly.
If apps on your device are out of date, hackers can make the use of their outdated design and steal your personal information. It’s a good security practice to delete all apps you no longer use. Only download and install apps from trusted sources. Make sure you read the app’s privacy statement, permissions and reviews. Configure app permissions immediately after downloading. Tower’s App gives you quick and easy access to your Tower accounts anytime, anywhere. It allows for fingerprint-ID on Android devices or Touch ID™ on Apple devices. Login with Face ID on your iPhone.

6. Set up the “find my phone” feature.
This will allow you to find, remotely wipe data and/or disable the device if it gets into the wrong hands.

7. Set up account alerts.
Set up alerts on your phone in case something goes awry and you are hacked.

The following are some trip planning pointers.

• Use Google Translate and Maps.
Just type in a word or phrase—it’s translated into the language you need. You can also speak into your phone and it will speak back the other languages. What’s more, you can take a picture of a sign or menu and it will translate it for you.

• Keep your phone charged.
Don’t forget to bring your bring your battery charger to charge all your devices that need power. Make sure you keep your phone plugged in and ready to go by charging it often. Internationally, there are many types of plug adaptors, so research the one(s) you need before you go.

Remember that not all chargers are the same and that some will charge faster than others. Do your research for your particular phone before you travel.

• Use airplane mode to charge faster.
If you have a limited time to charge your phone, activate airplane mode and it will charge a lot faster. Also consider shorter and retractable cables for efficiency.

• Turn off your cellular data.
Your cellular or mobile data can lead to high charges for roaming on your cell phone bill, not to mention burning through your battery. Use data roaming carefully—your cellphone carrier can help you regulate data usage to keep your bill at a reasonable level. The difference between a Wi-Fi network and cell data use is that the former involves connecting to a modem, while the latter does not. Wi-Fi uses an existing network, so you won’t need to worry about added data charges for using it.

• Prepare for an emergency.
Put together a list of emergency contacts and save them in your phone. You may want to also print this out in case you don’t have access to or lose your phone. Include family members, friends, house sitter and more. If traveling abroad, make note of unique numbers for different services for different countries, plus your nearest U.S. Embassy in case you need extra help. Add your doctor into your list of phone numbers and share with your companions. Take Tower’s emergency numbers with you if going overseas in the event your debit or credit card is blocked or if you suspect card fraud. If your card is lost or stolen, call Tower immediately to request your card be disabled so no further transactions will be authorized.

Sources: Forbes, AARP, Verizon,, WIRED,

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