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Protecting your privacy: how little shares can equal big reveals

February 5, 2020

By Doug Kaplan, courtesy of InfoArmor

Imagine your daughter makes the honor roll. Her school sends home a bumper sticker celebrating the accomplishment, and you proudly stick it on your car. 

It probably seems like a harmless way to spotlight your daughter’s hard work — but did you know privacy experts actually advise against broadcasting personal information, such as the name of your child’s school, in a public place?

Whether you’re driving around town or posting something online, little shares can lead to big reveals. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to expose where you live, where you go, and the nuances of your schedule — the very details that could embolden a criminal searching for opportunity. 

No need to fear, though: with InfoArmor, you have a partner in privacy. Check out our list of common overshares and how to avoid them.

What does your car say about you?

If you’re concerned about privacy, it makes sense to avoid school-specific bumper stickers. It wouldn’t take much legwork for a criminal in the next lane to determine school drop-off times — and possibly pinpoint when your family won’t be home. 

If you think about it, many common bumper stickers may reveal an awful lot, such as:  

  • How much we pay for our kids’ education

  • Our professions and, by extension, an estimate of our salaries 

  • Whether we attend church

  • Whether we own guns

  • If we’re in the military — and thus away from home for long periods of time

All of this information could be of keen interest to thieves looking to plan a break-in. And this type of theft has a big annual impact on Americans: According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, property crimes in the U.S. resulted in losses estimated at $16.4 billion in 2018 alone. 

It’s no surprise, then, that some law enforcement officials recommend avoiding custom family bumper stickers — the kind with a different personalized stick figure for each member of the family. 

These popular decals can actually reveal a ton about you and your loved ones’ locations and schedules. For example, a proud Army family might opt to show an enlisted parent in a military uniform, while an athletic daughter might be depicted kicking a soccer ball. These fun flourishes may unwittingly reveal that one parent is deployed overseas, while the rest of the family is often out of the house in the evenings for sports practice. 

When it comes to bumper stickers, it can’t hurt to take a “less is more” approach. 

Does your house give you away?

Similarly, if you’re looking to up your privacy, your family’s personal details shouldn’t be part of your home’s curb appeal. 

Schools and churches often encourage members to display front-yard signs advertising their programs, but think twice before placing such a sign on your lawn. Just by looking up the price of tuition, drop-off hours, or church-service start times, passers-by could easily glean insights into your family’s financial situation or regular schedule — all information you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands. 

Bottom line: It may seem like a nice idea to help an organization advertise or boost enrollment, but not at the expense of your own privacy. 

Should you share your workplace online?

Doing so may make you more vulnerable to targeted phishing attacks. 

People are naturally more likely to click on a malware-embedded link if they believe it was sent by their company’s CEO or HR department. Skilled fraudsters can impersonate legitimate people from your organization in order to gain access to your company’s network or your personal information. 

If you enjoy networking on LinkedIn or other professional sites, there’s no need to give that up completely. But it’s a good idea to be mindful of what you share and to monitor your inbox for these common signs of phishing:

  • Blurry images or typos

  • Misspellings in the sender’s email address 

  • Unexpected requests for highly sensitive or personal information

  • Links to sites that don’t begin with “https” (the “s” stands for secure)

On social, it’s all too easy to overshare

Everything we do online leaves a trail, which can add up to a big reveal over time. Since criminals use social networking platforms to identify victims and steal their personal information, it’s best to be extra careful about what we add to our digital footprints.

Before sharing something personal online, stop and consider what it says about your location or regular schedule. 

Seemingly insignificant details in the background of a photo (like, say, a house number) could say more than you intended, while a handful of posts from the same coffee shop may reveal a predictable daily routine. Consider embracing “latergrams,” or the concept of posting something at a later time than it actually happened. After all, a real-time selfie from your trip to the Grand Canyon may signal to thieves that you’re not at home. 

If you have PrivacyArmor, our powerful technology can help keep your information and identity safe. Just log in to the portal and enable the following features: 

  • Credit monitoring: If a criminal starts exploiting your credit profile, we’ll let you know as soon as new activity is detected — and our Privacy Advocates will coach you along the road to recovery.

  • Social media monitoring: Once you link your social accounts, we’ll alert you if we see content in your feed that could lead to reputational damage.

  • Dark web monitoring: We’ll reach out right away if bots or human operatives discover your information on the dark web.

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