7 Dumb Things that sacrifice your privacy!

Yesterday on CTV Morning Live, I gave you five simple tips which will help you protect your privacy. We sacrifice our private information in so many ways today – to Google, to advertisers, to companies, to the government.

Watch the clip here: http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1113512

But did you realize that you might be giving away information inadvertently through means you hadn’t considered? Here are a few more detailed tips, including those from yesterday.

Parking Passes on the Rearview Mirror: Whether it’s for permitted on-street parking or a regular parking lot a work, you’re revealing a great deal about yourself. Parking passes often have the building, parking lot number or the name of establishment you work for printed on them. They may have your name on them, as well as a license plate number. Matching up pieces of information to create a whole picture is the domain of private investigators, as well as skilled stalkers…

Stick Figure Stickers: You're telling strangers how big your family is, whether you have a partner, how many kids you have and what you're interested in! Many customized sticker sets also show specific interests: Star Wars, pets, comic book heroes, etc. When combined with the next safety risk, we're well on our way to building a personalized profile of you

Vanity License Plates: These often reveal nicknames, business names/types, real names, initials of individuals or married couples, affiliations with organizations, interests or even partial dates of birth. The Veteran's plate is an example... combined with bumper stickers showing the command or regiment, a con artist can start to infer age, service time, even the conflicts someone has fought in. A little creativity around free information is all that's required to start creating a convincing con that will break down resistance. Those who know a few tricks can locate your full name, residential address and bank information from a license plate. That can be done for anyone. Don't contribute personal, vulnerability-related information to that pile of data by being over-customized!

Selling yourself out on social media: checkins, vacations, pictures of kids, birthdays, political opinions, favourite foods, likes, etc. The more information you put out there about yourself, the more a guy like me has to use against you if I want to manipulate you. Sensitive stuff that you might use for passwords and checks (customer service ID validation) - dates of birth, PIN numbers based on DOBs etc., maiden names, pet names, kid's names, nicknames... it's all fair game when it hits the Internet. Who do you really want knowing where you are at all times, and with whom?

Leaving mail and personally-identifying items on car seats or in your mailbox: A peek in the window reveals who you are, where you live, what businesses, organizations, etc. you deal with. Which credit card you have. Linked to your vehicle information, this is a goldmine. If a thief were to break into your car and steal your mail to get your credit card statement, would you notice the mail missing? Would you report it to the police? Do you know what a con man can do with your name, address, a few pieces of info about your car loan and a credit card number? He can find everything about you, assume your identity and get a new credit card just for himself - sent to him, on your dime.

Receiving bank and credit card statements in the mail / forgetting to change your address: Abandoned mail is a goldmine for people that are curious and sneaky. If they don't throw it out or return it to sender, they're probably snooping through it. Same concerns at #5. E-statements are preferable in the modern era - there's no need to receive paper with your identifying details on it. If you move, make sure to register with Canada Post for 1 year of forwarding with address updating to senders. Don't abandon your mail! Change your address manually with the bank, all lenders, store credit and reward cards, MTO and Health Card, your lawyer, doctor and accountant, and all bills.

Posting your real email address and phone number on e-commerce/listing sites: Your real information can be used to locate your other online profiles, historical information about you online, where you've lived in past - even to hack online accounts, or socially engineer customer service reps on the phone. Very skilled operators can start with one or two pieces of information and get your hydro bills, phone bills, bank and credit card information and eventually, where you really live - if that matters to you.

If you’re serious about your privacy, don’t volunteer information about yourself, even casually!