- Identity Thieves. Criminals are omnipresent these days – on your computer, at your mailbox, watching you come and go. All it takes to have your identity stolen is to have your mail stolen out of your mailbox or drop your wallet somewhere. Undoing and overcoming the damage an identity thief can do brings to mind the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Secure your information/data/mail.
- Bill Collectors. They will call you at home, call you at work, email you and even on occasion, show up at your doorstep. But how do they know where to call, email or show up? If you don’t share your contact information, then they’ll have a difficult time finding you.
- Angry Ex’s/Former Employees/Stalkers. Everyone likes to think that they are well liked and have no enemies. Unfortunately, we can’t control what others think of us. If a relationship ends badly, a coworker is terminated or unwanted attention is attracted to an individual, loose information that is available must be secured. Again, prevention is powerful and if those that mean you harm can’t find your phone number or address, you’ve hit a privacy “home run” and saved yourself some heartache.
- Honest Mistakes (Name Mixups). Do you have a common name? If so, there’s likely someone out there looking for you. For example, the name John Smith is a very common American name. Although I’m sure most of the Mr. Smiths out there are law-abiding citizens, there’s probably at least one John Smith who’s wanted by bill collectors or has an arrest warrant pending. If your name is the same as a wanted criminal, do you think that they’ll ask to confirm your social security number (the one thing that differentiates you from other John Smiths) when you’re arrested? The answer is no. You’ll be taken to jail first, innocent or not. If it happens at somewhere like an airport, you’ll be detained in a backroom somewhere and interrogated by Federal Authorities. If you have the same name as someone on a terror list, then it could get much worse. The USA Patriot Act allows authorities to do just about whatever they want to you (in the name of “Homeland Security”) – and you can kiss justice and due process of law good bye. Every heard of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? It’s not where you want to be vacationing.
- Nigerian Scam Artists. Everyone knows about the Nigerian scams that come by phone phone and email: some prince in a foreign country has millions of dollars and he needs you to help hold it in your bank account, just send him a money order and they’ll send you the money. Yeah right!
- Ruthless Advertisers. Every time they ask for your phone number and address when you get your oil changed or you buy a pack of gum at the corner drug store you don’t have to give it to them. Your information is stored in multiple databases and sold to advertisers and also used for tracking purposes. Just say no, or make up an address and phone number.
- Government Profiles. I recently blogged about the report from PBS Frontline documenting how the NSA has been spying on Americans for years and compiling a database (and potentially a dossier) on you. Do your best to not share information with government agencies. Use a PO Box when possible and don’t give out your real phone number. In my opinion, government agencies are the scariest and most powerful adversary to privacy. And with the resources of the government, if they want to find you, they will. But you can still maintain some level of privacy by not sharing information and being careful about what you share online.
- Media Reports. We’ve all had incidents in our lives where either a family member, friend or ourselves have been named in a media report, article or video. It makes you feel like the whole world is watching you for that moment. And the more information that the media report includes about you, the more alienated and isolated you feel. Don’t let your personal information get out into the public arena to be tossed about by reporters and slanderers.
- Enemies At Large. Occasionally those who are in business, politics (imagine a high profile job) or public servants (like judges or police) find themselves being targeted. Not many people appreciate privacy more than those who serve the public in a law enforcement role. They make lots of enemies just doing their job. And they must secure their information for the safety and security of their family and themselves.
- Rogue Law Enforcement. Despite being blessed with thousands of dedicated, law-abiding police in the United States, there is always the possibility of finding yourself on the wrong side of the law. Law enforcement officers wield great power and have enormous resources and pools of fellow LEOs to draw from. When possible, you want to avoid making an enemy of a LEO.
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