Don’t Be Such an Open Book!

This past weekend, I was reading a news story about Black Friday sales. I won’t specify the source of this article, and you’ll see why in a moment.

In the story, shoppers were quoted as to what they bought and how much they spent. For the most part, the shoppers quoted weren’t buying anything too extravagant, and only revealed certain things about themselves.

But others were much more open about themselves and their purchases.

One in particular shared her full name, the pricey luxury items she bought and the fact that she’s visiting New York from Oklahoma for her 50th birthday. (Note: I’ve changed her identifying details here out of concern for her privacy on my part; I know this was in the media already, but I don’t want to add to the situation by spreading her information even further!)

I should also point out that her name is somewhat unique compared to other shoppers quoted; in other words, she doesn’t have a common name like Jennifer Smith.

Right away, then, her contribution to the article struck me as just too much, for her sake. Now anyone reading this would have all they need to find out exactly where she lives in Oklahoma, especially since she even included her exact age! And based on what she could afford to buy, she is also likely well-off — and probably wouldn’t be home for another day or so from the publication date, since she’s visiting from somewhat far away.

All of which is dangerous information in the wrong hands, if you ask me.

I decided to test my theory and Google her name and state; sure enough, only a few results popped up. I knew I had the right person because a couple of the results included her age range, which was a match for the information in the news article.

From that brief search, I now had her street address, her phone number, and a list of her relatives.

I continued my creepy experiment by mapping her address and checking out the “street view” of it. Once again, my suspicions were right — she lives in a very nice house that would lead me to believe she is indeed well-off.

And based on her openness in the article, she’s likely not too savvy about her personal privacy, so aside from the risk of robbery, she could be marking herself as a prime target for identity theft or even stalking.

Now to some of you more trusting types, I know I may be coming off as overly paranoid. However, it’s been documented that criminals of all kinds often get ideas as to who to target based on the information victims themselves put out there, or fail to secure properly. For example, it’s been reported for years that some home robberies have been linked to social media posts and that oversharing online has been linked to identity theft – so sharing such personal details in print media, which is eventually posted online anyway, is no different.

Look, just because a reporter asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to divulge everything. I think their Black Friday articles will be just fine if you only give your first name, for example. This media outlet is clearly OK with that, as they quoted a few other shoppers who did this.

I hope this post isn’t coming off as critical of her; I’m writing out of concern for people like her who don’t realize how they’re making themselves vulnerable.

Think of it this way: this media outlet had no qualms printing the information this person shared in good faith; had I been the reporter, I would have cleaned up her information in the story so that it would be less personally revealing to her yet still accurate and useful for my story.

But no one will care as much about you as you do, or should. So don’t rely on anyone else to protect you. Look out for yourself, and you can start by not being such an open book — please!


  1. Great post. This is exactly why I do not have a Facebook page and only have a LinkedIn profile for my professional networking. I have Googled my name and there is almost nothing out there about me, so I am glad I have minimized my online presence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I’m the same with Facebook, and I actually don’t even use LinkedIn either. Although I sometimes wonder if I should use LinkedIn, since I hear not being on it isn’t good professionally…but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have found it to be a decent networking site, so I cannot complain. However I only network with people that I know, so I do not have thousands of friends.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is frightening how much information is out there. I had a recent meet-and-greet with another blogger (who fortunately did not turn out to be an axe murderer). Armed only with my real name (which I gave him so he could contact me for the meeting) and the city I live in (which he was visiting), he was then able to find out my address, my age, the names and ages of every family member, and where my day job is. He simply used Google, and of course, the property information is public record. It’s all a little bit unnerving. For blogging purposes, I use a separate email account and Facebook/Twitter accounts using my pseudonym – but it’s really fairly easy to find someone if you try hard enough, thanks to the internet.

    Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s definitely unnerving! It’s true — technically the information has always been public, but never has it been so easy to access. Now with the Internet and all these personal info sites, people have access to details they likely wouldn’t have gone out of their way to find in the past– or it would certainly take a lot more effort and, I think, more identifying info on the part of the requester. Now you can access so much of it anonymously, 24 hours a day… so, I’m glad your meeting worked out OK! 🙂 Thanks for sharing that; it’s a great example of this phenomenon.


  3. I’m wondering why the reporter who wrote the story didn’t mask the personal information, perhaps, as you did, changing her personal details. It seems that would have been the prudent thing for the reporter to have done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s what I couldn’t get over, but perhaps even the reporter isn’t too experienced and is unaware of what can be done with details like these? I’m hoping that’s the case, but either way, it’s scary to think of private information being in the hands of people like that…besides, where were the editors on this one? Scary all around…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post: maybe I should Google myself and see what turns up. I was very guarded when I first started blogging, but, after a while, I began to feel like everyone was a friend. Maybe not?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm. There are many people who share my name, so that was a relief, in a way. On the other hand, by adding in a couple of pertinent details, it wouldn’t be difficult to find me. I don’t want to become paranoid, yet I don’t want to be naive, either (like the woman in your post).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally agree with you on this one! It’s scary to think about how much personal information is floating out there that criminals can take advantage of – I feel sorry for this woman. It’s interesting also that the reporters didn’t have any reservations putting it all out there either!

    Liked by 1 person

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