Tuesday, 15 December 2020 13:36

AMTA'S top five holiday safety messages for phone ownership and use

Chris Althaus AMTA CEO picture above Chris Althaus AMTA CEO picture above

When it comes to holiday time, we can let our guard down as we relax a little, with 2020 perhaps causing people to relax a little too much. Here's what Australian Mobile Telecommunications Australia CEO Chris Althaus says we should all be aware of this holiday season.

1. Know the road rules – and Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Summer 2020-21 will be different. The pandemic has taken away the option of international travel for most of us, however, many Australians are looking forward to hitting the road for their holiday.

Driver distraction is one of the leading causes of accidents on our roads. Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal in Australia and this applies even if you are stopped at lights or in traffic.

Road rules vary from state to state, but generally, if you would like to use your mobile phone for voice calls, the law demands securing the device in a cradle or using hands-free (i.e. via Bluetooth). You can also choose to simply rely on voicemail or turn on the “do not disturb while driving” function on your mobile.

Remember it is both illegal and very unsafe to use any data services such as email, text or social media while driving. At all times keep your eyes on the road.

Don’t be caught out using your phone or you will risk fines and demerit points - NSW, Queensland and Victoria all have programs in place to detect mobile phones use with fixed and transportable cameras. Contact your local road safety agency or police for more advice.

2. Talk to your kids about their mobile device use

Christmas means presents and these days that often means new mobile devices and games of all kinds for the kids. This can be overwhelming for parents who may feel that they don’t understand new technology.

Educating yourself will help you stay informed and actively engaged with your kids mobile activities - check out the eSafety website to learn about the devices, apps and games your kids may be using.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your kids about how they use devices and how they can interact safely online, especially with social media.

3. Understand mobile coverage and your data plan

While some of us like to completely unplug while on holiday, others like to use their phones for activities such as sharing holiday snaps, reconnecting with friends and families via social media or catching up on TV shows or movies via streaming services.

If you are going away and staying connected is important to you, check the coverage at your destination before you go. Your service provider’s coverage maps will give you the information you need to help plan your getaway.

And, remember that holidays can mean using more mobile data so it’s a good time to check out your data plan and see if you need to upgrade, especially if you’re planning on streaming movies on your mobile device!

Another handy tip is to download content, such as movies, using wi-fi at home before you go.

4. Watch out for scams

Christmas is unfortunately the peak time for scams of all kinds.

In 2020, there were over 34,722 phishing scams reported in Australia with a total loss of more than $1.6 million. Of these scams, 23,375 were phone and text message scams with $873,673 reported lost. With scammers becoming more sophisticated, it’s important that you know what to look out for and take steps to avoid scams on your mobile device.

Remember don’t assume all messages are safe - never click on any links or attachments shared - just delete. If you are worried check the detail of the sender or, simply contact whoever the message claims to be from directly by a number you know is theirs (not always the number provided in the message).

Scammers can manipulate caller ID information, so it’s always best to hang up if someone calls asking for personal information or money. Using caller protection apps are a helpful way to protect yourself against scam phone calls as they block the numbers and texts you want to avoid.

There are websites like scamwatch for additional advice.

5. Keep your phone safe and secure

These days, we are more likely to leave the house without our wallet than without our mobile – and many of us now use our mobile as a virtual wallet as well as a repository of all kinds of personal data such as photos, online accounts and banking.

Keep your phone with you at all times and enable the devices inbuilt security features so you won’t need to worry if your phone ends up lost or stolen.

If your mobile phone is lost or stolen, call your service provider immediately to prevent unauthorised use. Fortunately, AMTA runs a world-leading program that protects consumers by blocking mobile handsets across all networks if they are reported lost or stolen.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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