A Note on Language
In this toolkit, we will sometimes use the word woman/women and feminine pronouns for simplicity and to recognize the significant impact technology-facilitated violence has on women and girls. We recognize that TFGBV also impacts trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people. We hope that all people impacted by TFGBV will find these documents useful.
This handout has general information for those who want to set up a new phone with a new number. Sometimes perpetrators destroy phones or monitor a woman’s “main” phone. Many women may choose to get an extra backup phone to call 9-1-1 or support services privately as they plan what to do next.
There may be unique situations and tech safety needs that are not be covered by this basic advice. Trust your instincts. If you feel you need more information, particularly if your perpetrator knows a lot about technology, please see our other info sheets at www.techsafetycanada.ca.
Common Risks and Benefits of Setting Up and Activating Another Phone
It is important to understand the common risks and benefits of getting a new phone so that you can plan for how to stay safer. These can include:
Potential Risks Include:
- An abuser finds the phone and becomes more abusive.
- Setting up a new mobile phone account may unintentionally link to an abuser’s account due to similar or shared data (like address, email, etc.). This can include information from an old phone automatically moving to the new phone.
- A perpetrator finds out that a survivor has removed herself from his mobile phone account
- Financial abuse, which can affect credit and make it harder to qualify for a phone
Potential Benefits Include:
- Being able to call 9-1-1, support workers, and people you trust on a safe device
- Searching the internet or undertaking other activities on the device without being monitored
- Being able to flee and use location-based services like maps
- Being less isolated
If you decide to get a new phone, here are some things you might think about:
- Creating new, unlinked accounts (like Google, iCloud, or Apple ID)
- How you will keep the battery charged on the phone
- How to keep credit on the phone, and knowing when it may expire
- What you could say and do if a perpetrator or child finds the phone
- Using the phone’s data instead of your home Wi-Fi since it can be monitored
- How you will keep the phone from vibrating or ringing
The main thing to remember as you set up and activate a new phone, especially if you plan on still using your “main” phone, is how to keep everything about the new phone and your “main” phone separate. We will cover some basic things you can do. Depending on your situation and how tech-savvy the perpetrator is or their contacts are, it may be safer to review our more in-depth guides about Androids or iPhones before getting a new phone.
Why Keeping Information Separate Is for Safety
Kristin* & Joanna’s* tech safety stories
Kristin bought a new sim card and a new phone and set up the new phone with the same provider. After a few days, her partner confronted her and angrily asked why she was setting up a new phone. Kristin had not realised that her husband was the legal account holder of their family account and that he was notified when she added a new phone number in her name. Joanna had a similar experience after providing her email address to the phone company and not remembering that her abusive ex-husband could access her email account and read her incoming emails. He saw an email in her account from the phone company advising her that her new account had been successfully set up.
*names have been changed
Step-by-Step Simplified Process for Safely Setting Up and Activating A New Phone
1. Create a new email address using a device the perpetrator has not accessed. Whether the new phone you get is an iPhone or Android phone, this email address can be used for the Apple ID, iCloud account, or Google account, etc.
2. Update the privacy and security settings on your new email account. Adjust settings to your comfort level so that your contacts, location, and other personal information is collected only with your knowledge. Stay safer by being selective about the personal information you share during setup.
3. Get a new phone that is not a gift from an abusive person. Keep receipts, if possible.
4. Find a new mobile service provider that your abuser does not or has not used, if possible. Separate your identity by insisting on a new account number and a new phone number for the new phone. Stress to the person activating the phone that the account is in your name and request additional security measures, like a pin or two-step authentication that an abuser could not guess or access.
5. Get a new phone number. This can be hard, and each person’s needs may be different. The main risk of keeping an old number and transferring it to a new account is that the perpetrator will still know the number. This may result in harassment or even impersonation to gain control of that number again.
6. Get a new SIM and a new SD card. Do not use the new SIM or SD in the old phone or the old SIM or SD in the new phone. Keep the phones separate. This may require physically entering contacts onto the old phone.
7. Explore your new phone’s privacy, security features, and connectivity features that may collect your contact, location, or other information. Make sure to practice using the phone’s features so you know how to silence it, charge it, and load credit on it.
8. Use new locks, passcodes, and complex passwords for your new phone. Be cautious about what apps or accounts you access on your new phone as some may notify an account holder of a login from an unknown device. Only download apps under your new Apple ID, iCloud account, Google account, etc.
Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) is part of a continuum of violence that can be both online and in-person. If you or someone you know is experiencing TFGBV, you are not alone. You can use sheltersafe.ca to find a shelter/transition house near you to discuss options and create a safety plan. You don’t need to stay in a shelter to access free, confidential services and support.