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!