Better Business Bureau: Apple picking your smart phone

This is National Consumer Protection Week, which is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. The Better Business Bureau is a member of the steering committee promoting the event.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions the Victoria Advocate has made to our community in protecting consumers. Hopefully, our weekly tips have saved consumers and businesses alike from falling for the various scams and bad deals that seem to plague all of us.

All businesses are consumers, and our role at Better Business Bureau is to protect the marketplace and encourage consumers to deal with reputable businesses that can be trusted. Remember, a wise thing for an individual consumer or business to do before conducting business with a stranger is to go to bbb.org for a Better Business Bureau Business Review.

A note from the Rossen Reports - TODAY News. Thieves are finding new ways to steal your iPhone. It's called "Apple picking." Criminals have been stealing iPhones for years, grabbing them from your pocket or your bag. But now they're taking it to a new level, stealing them right from your hands as you're on the phone.

Here's why: When you're on your cellphone, you're in your own little world, not paying attention. The criminals are counting on it. Police say by the time victims realize what has happened, the thief is gone, and the victim can't even give a description.

Best target - women. Best time - when people get off work, school, etc. For the criminal, it pays off because iPhones are hot on the black market. The iPhone 5 is worth about $300.

The Better Business Bureau urges consumers to take steps to secure their mobile devices in order to protect themselves from identity theft and malware.

Smartphones can be a treasure trove for hackers. Through apps and mobile browsers, people store personal information like passwords, bank account information and credit card numbers in addition to their contacts and other information.

The BBB urges consumers to remember that a smartphone is no different than a desktop or laptop computer, in that it is vulnerable to the same hackers, malware, spyware and viruses. Here are a few tips from Better Business Bureau to secure your mobile devices:

Lock your phone. Set your device to lock automatically when not in use for a specified time.

Update your operating system.

Beware of unknown apps and links.

Avoid unsecured public Wi-Fi.

Turn off Bluetooth when not actively in use.

Check your permissions. Check all of your apps to see what data they are accessing and revoke permissions for information those apps don't need to properly operate.

Pay close attention to your phone bills.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.