Prepping and Privacy: Are You Putting Yourself at Risk?

One of the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) over the years about prepping and privacy is that people often give out information about their lives and their activities that is highly valuable to criminals without even realizing it. Social sites such as Facebook, etc., have been a huge help to those with bad intentions in this area. Today I’m going to talk about how we’re putting ourselves and our families at risk by not being cautious about our privacy, and what you can do to protect your family. Although this post might seem a little on the snarky side, know that my heart is to help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 🙂

The fact of the matter is that privacy in today’s world is largely non-existent. The government or any smart hacker can find out anything they want to about what you’re sending via email, what you’re saying on your phone calls, and what your house looks like thanks to satellites and built-in webcams. They can also hear what you’re saying in your car thanks to “helpful” features such as OnStar.

Tips for Prepping and Privacy

It’s nice and fluffy to have an attitude of trusting everyone until they prove they are untrustworthy, but in today’s world where the news gives us clear evidence that evil is increasing, it’s not very smart. Preppers who are interested in protecting their families need to have a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude regarding what information they give out about their life and their families. Not in a paranoid way, but in a smart way.

Until you know that you know you can trust somebody (and some preppers will say you NEVER really know), you need to keep your guard up and give out as little info as possible.

But most people live their lives trusting everyone until they get screwed. Facebook and other social media sites are a perfect example of this truth.

Safety on Social Media

Personally, we aren’t on Facebook. And we likely never will be. Why? Because it’s a highly useful website for anyone wanting to find homes to burglarize or people to attack.  Let me share some examples of stuff I’ve seen on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“Hey, all! Leaving for sunny Florida tomorrow for ten days, taking our dream trip to Disney World!”

“Sitting in the drive-thru at Caribou, got lots of errands to do today.”

“Just dropped the kids off at “such and such” park to play. Yay for alone time!”

“Husband is out of town for the week for work. Miss him so much!”

While these cute updates may seem innocent enough, they are a gold mine to those with evil intentions. In all of the above scenarios, the writer has just shared in what way they have made themselves or their family open and vulnerable to attack.

Recommended Reading: Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family

It’s easier for a criminal to burglarize a house when they know for a fact that the homeowner is out of town or not at home for the day.

It’s easier for a violent criminal to plan an attack on a weaker, more vulnerable person when he knows that the husband is out of town for several days.

It’s easier for an evil person to hurt a child when they have clear evidence that they’re currently being unsupervised at such-and-such a place.

Friends, I know it’s all fun to feel like you’ve got a million friends on social media sites who love you and care about what you’re doing, but it’s not smart and it’s not safe. Even private Facebook accounts can be easily hacked by smart criminals. The circle of people who truly have your best interests at heart is much smaller than you probably think it is. So here’s how you can minimize risk and stay safe on social media.

  1. DON’T give out information about your whereabouts until AFTER you’ve arrived back home. In other words, if you’re going on vacation, don’t post about it until after you’re back.
  2. Never make public when you’re in a potentially vulnerable situation, like if you’re home alone, or if your husband is gone overnight or whatever.
  3. Don’t share what your kids are doing or where. Criminals will often get to know a child’s schedule ahead of time (i.e., where they go to school, what time they leave, who they walk with, where they play at and with whom) when planning an evil act.
  4. Be careful about the pictures you post. Personally, we are not fans of posting pics online. I don’t want anyone walking up to us and sharing how very much they know about us because we’ve shared our pics and hobbies/commitments online.

You’ll also notice that while I give out a boat load of prepping advice on this blog, that I very rarely share details about what we’re doing personally. That’s for privacy reasons. As it is I’m taking some risks simply by blogging, so we work to keep the details of our lives as private as possible for security reasons. We have the “location” dealy turned off on our phones and cameras and don’t give out too many specific details about our lives. Yet, there are still seasoned tech experts who can tell me way more about what me and my family do each week than they should know.

The best way to minimize your risk is to give out as little info as possible – especially beforehand or during an activity – and to think like Jason Bourne as you plan what you share and with whom.

Recommended Reading: New Release!! The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data

This goes not only for online, but in real life too. Just the other day we were in a public place and one of the kids asked me which weekend daddy was going on his annual fishing trip. Because we were in close proximity to strangers, I changed the subject and told her we’d talk about it later. Heck, we don’t even give info out about our upcoming plans to most of our neighbors!

The same warning goes out to bloggers who eagerly share their financial successes on national news sites for the purpose of publicity or inspiring others. Do you really want the entire world to recognize you as the guy who has a multi-million dollar net worth and lives in “X” city and share pics of your wife and little kids? NOOOOO!

If you’re not interested in prepping/protecting your family, feel free to keep doing what you’re doing. But if keeping your family safe matters more to you than bragging sharing about how awesome your family is, start minimizing what you’re sharing on social media sites TODAY. Sorry to be so harsh, but the truth is that criminals do indeed use social media to plan crimes against innocent, unsuspecting people, and I care about you and want you to be safe from people who have evil plans in their heart.

For instance, I know of a friend who connected with a distant friend from high school via Facebook, and this guy ended up stalking her and her family for months, behaving just on the edge of the law so that there was little they could do from a legal standpoint. Finally her husband went to the guy’s house and let him know that if he contacted the wife again he’d be taken down, and the guy stopped his psycho stalking ways. Don’t make the innocent and unintentional mistake that my friend made. Stop caring about the number of “friends” you have on Facebook and start thinking in a way that will expose your family as little as possible.

Personal Information Safety – In Person and Online

I know I might be committing a personal finance faux pas here, but I’m also staunchly against using online sites that gather all of my financial information for the purpose of “helping” me to be more organized. My primary financial gathering tools rest in a notebook that stays in a safe in our house. Same goes for our passwords, and all other information that would be convenient for potential criminals to use against me and my family.

The same goes for talking about your financial and other information in person. I know people who LOVE to share that they have no debt, that they have “X” amount in savings or that they have “X” and “X” possessions. Some of these people share because they’re bragging, others share because they want to help others, but both intentions make you vulnerable. You may think that you’re telling somebody you can trust about your money and your possessions, but the problem with this mindset is that people talk – even when they’ve got no harm in mind – and that can put you at risk.

Unintentional Risk

For instance, let’s say you tell your sister or your neighbor or your friend something about your life. “Yeah, we paid off ALL of our debt last year! Now we’ve got $50,000 in the savings account for an emergency fund – oh, and a few thousand here at home too, just in case of an emergency. Because we paid off our debt, we’ve been able to save for a vacation to Hawaii next month!”

The following week, your friend is talking to one of their friends. “Joe and Jane Smith were telling me last week that they have all of their debt paid off AND $50k in savings, and a few grand at home too! OH, and now that they’re so good off financially, they’re taking a trip to Hawaii next week, and they’re paying with cash! I’m so jealous. I wish we were debt free. We don’t have anything in savings. We’ve got to get our sh*t together. That’s going to be one of my resolutions for this year.”

You can see that “friend”‘s intentions weren’t at all bad, but the problem is that “friend” shared this story with her friend while having coffee at the local coffee shop, and the bad guy sitting next to her heard every word.

Or “friend”‘s friend shared it with her brother, who shared it with his friend, whose brother overheard. Problem is that said brother is a closet burglar.

None of the people in this scenario had bad intentions with the exception of closet burglar and coffee shop bad guy. They were just sharing a story in hopes of improving their own situation or helping others, but things got bad real quick when closet burglar overheard, because he knows through the grapevine where Joe and Jane Smith live and he knows that they’re going to Hawaii next week.

Each person has to make their own decisions, but it’s important to think twice before sharing ANY financial or other personal information either in person or online.

Recommended Reading: INVISIBLE PREPPER – DISAPPEAR FROM BIG BROTHER’S RADAR & PROTECT ASSETS IN THE COMING CRISIS – 2016 EDITION (Prepping, Survival, Crisis, Privacy & Security) (HOW TO BOOK & GUIDE TO AVOID DISASTER)

Even on this blog, you’ll rarely hear me share specifics about our life (unless those specifics don’t reveal anything that would make us vulnerable), but instead I give advice based on what I’ve learned.

This wasn’t always the case. When I first started blogging, I’d share openly what we were doing, post pics, etc. for the sake of being real and helpful to others. As time has gone on and I’ve learned more about prepping, I’ve become more aware of what info can be safely shared and what info makes us vulnerable. Although I LOVE the idea of helping readers learn how to stay prepped and stay safe, I know that I need to do that while not making our family vulnerable to the rare lurking creepo that may be reading. The creepo, I know, is probably only one quarter of one percent of our readers, but that’s still a risk I want to minimize, and you should as well.

Learning to Protect Yourself and Your Privacy

Here’s an exercise you can do to start learning to protect yourself and your privacy. As you go about your day, give more intentional thoughts to your actions and words. For instance, as you’re posting on Facebook, think about how the info you’re sharing might be able to be used against you. As you’re sharing info online, think about how a hacker could use that information to steal from you or harm you.

As you discover vulnerabilities and areas of weakness, fix the leaks. For instance, when purchasing something online, never use your checking account debit card. Instead, use a credit card. That way thieves won’t have access to your checking account directly. Instead, they’ll just raise your debt level, which is definitely the lesser of two evils and easier to overcome from a financial standpoint.

Recommended Reading: Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance

Start viewing yourself as a Jason Bourne character when you go about your day in real life. I learned to do this first hand after I finally got the courage to break up with an abusive boyfriend. Because he had threatened after the breakup to “break both of your legs and kill whoever you’re with” if he ever saw me again, I learned to adapt the Jason Bourne mindset. I became extremely aware of my surroundings and who was near me. I learned how to stick to the corners when shopping and avoid main aisles. I made it a habit to always have an escape route out of any situation, whether on the road or in a public place or in my home. I became very intentional about where I worked, shopped, banked and hung out, weighing every decision against the possibility of running into my ex-boyfriend.

While it was a horrible situation at the time (he died at the age of 37 so I no longer live in fear), it taught me a lot about how to minimize vulnerability to evil people and criminals. I am always prepared now for a potential attack. I know what posture and body language to use, and I have weapons in hand and ready to fight off potential attackers. I always know who’s around me and what they’re wearing/doing. It’s ingrained so deep in my psyche now that I doubt it will ever leave. And it’s saved me more times than I can count. The “ready and aware” mindset has helped me avoid accidents, injuries and creepy people as well. Luckily, it’s no longer laced with the fear of losing my life, but it still serves me well and helps me to be one of the few people who have a clue as to what’s going on around them.

I pray that you, too, will become acutely aware of what’s going on around you at all times, and that you will always have a plan for getting out of a situation quickly if need be. Protect your privacy. Protect yourself.Protect your family.

 

 

 

18 comments

  1. Amy says:

    Ahhhh I’ve been thinking about this topic so much lately! I’ve let it slip because… everyone else does it! Thank you for the reminder that I should trust my instincts and start closing our personal details up.

  2. This is an important topic, Laurie, and it really made me think.

    In self-defense classes, one of the most important topics (in my opinion) is prevention. There was actually a study done several years ago where hardened criminals were asked to watch a video of a busy pedestrian area and pick out who they would choose as victims. Researchers were surprised at the findings – the criminals didn’t choose victims based on size or gender, but on their gait, eye contact, and body posture. Those who walked confidently, with a faster paced, even gait and made eye contact were never chosen. Criminals look for the easy targets, the ones they think they can scare into submission. I tell students, even if you don’t feel confident, fake it.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly! We learn the same thing in Krav Maga!! Criminals can tell just by looking who will be surprised by them, who will fight back and who will kick their tails to the curb. Those things are important!

  3. Just to throw it out there–statistically crime has been super low. It just seems like the world is more evil now because we’re able to communicate and advertise sensational things more quickly. But yes, I agree that privacy is still important to protect yourself and your possessions.

    My rule is that I don’t post about leaving for vacations or anything until I return from said vacations. In fact, I’ve just stopped posting statuses on social media at all. I use my accounts to keep up with family and that’s pretty much it.

    Once we have kids I really don’t know if I’ll share pictures of them on social media. There are a bunch of crazy people out there that will steal your kids’ photos and pretend that they’re their kids–no joke.

    Either way, people should be educated on the risks of sharing any information online. Stay alert both online and in real life.

  4. Jayleen says:

    Yes! This! I feel like I’ve been getting a little lazy in this area and need to buckle down. I love Facebook but never participate in the fun games, or whatever you call them, even though they seem interesting. They are nothing more than information gatherers. Thank you for the reminder!

    • Laurie says:

      “They are nothing more than information gatherers.” Jayleen, I think people are clueless about this. It’s so easy to put a “game” out there that seems innocent and fun, yet truly it’s filled with information that can be used against participants.

  5. This is so good, and needed. It seems that privacy has become passe in our culture, and it can be downright dangerous. Your tips are right on, Laurie!
    Although I don’t want to live in”lock and load” mode, I tend to think like you, the less that is shared the better. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much, Anne!! Yeah, one has to be careful not to become paranoid, but we definitely need to be more mindful of the information we share.

  6. Nice recommendations, Laurie. I remember the movie Snowden that the US government has all the copies or piece of information of every American or even of those other countries. That said, we have to be careful with what information we are giving out at all times.

  7. Thanks for the hints Laurie, now a days our info is everywhere and it’s easy to access websites using Facebook/gmail or Linkedin accounts but sometimes we forget that on those cases your info is shared and you give access to your contacts lists or other private details, So… read the small details too.
    cheers! and Happy New year 🙂

  8. I think this is a tough topic for millennials in particular. We like to share updates constantly on social media, so the thought of sharing days or even weeks after something happened is just unthinkable. The biggest winner in this whole equation isn’t criminals imo, but security companies. I for one am willing to pay for a house sitter and security system because I know that there’s always a risk of someone trying to take advantage of social media updates. I think others would agree that paying for extra security and monitoring is worth the expense.

  9. Josh says:

    I still keep my Facebook account, but, I quit posting updates and photos probably 4 years ago now. I have come close to hitting the “delete account” button several times now, but, have held off because it’s the only (best) way to keep in touch with my former classmates since we live in different time zones and are horrible at staying in touch to begin with. When I do communicate, it’s private message.

    I also have a similar conflict with blogging. You need to disclose personal information to help relate to the readers, but, it’s a tough decision to determine when to draw the line.

    Thank you for sharing your own personal situation. It is sad that there are countless similar situations each day, but, it is comforting to know that you no longer live in fear and can help others avoid getting into one themself.

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