Rebecca Herold

The Privacy Professor's
Tips of the

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...
Especially for Crooks

Maybe it's the nip in the air, the inundation of holiday marketing or the overwhelming to-do lists. Whatever the cause, people get a little crazy and overly trusting this time of year - making it the ideal time for a sneak attack.


Here are a few warnings to keep in mind as you celebrate the holidays with your family and friends.

With those holiday greetings...
Be careful what you post
Kids posing with Santa, family reunions in front of the tree, lighting the menorah, baby's first Christmas, holiday parties at school and work - all great photo opps likely to wind up on Facebook, Photobucket or some other public site. Many of these images will be accompanied by a witty comment or two.
But be careful what you post. Humor and sarcasm can easily be lost online, especially when read by "friends" you've never actually met or folks who happened upon your public post. Just ask this New Jersey teacher whose job is on the line after parents complained about one of her "humorous" Facebook quips.


Even though you may only intend for your "friends" to read your updates, copy-and-paste forwarding can get you in hot water pretty quickly. This teacher reportedly had her posts limited to friends, but at least one of them decided to share her post with others. 


There'll be parties for hosting...
Be careful what you share 

With office parties, family get-togethers, bowl-game trips and more, many folks will be leaving their homes and property behind to celebrate the season. Telling too many "friends," especially those online, could leave the door open (so to speak) for holiday burglars. 



Be mindful of whom you share your travel plans with and think twice before sharing that information online. For 11 more holiday-season warnings, read this MSNBC article. 

Image courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com



When loved ones are near...

Be careful who you "bump"

Many new apps allow smartphone users to share everything from contact information to money simply by "bumping" their handsets together. Be cautious when adding these, and any other, apps to your phone. Generally, the easier it is to use an app for data sharing, the more security and privacy issues exist. And if the app claims to be "free," keep in mind the providers are likely collecting information about you that can be used to their benefit. Very few apps are ever truly free. 


 There'll be scary ghost stories...
Be careful what you believe
Most email spam filters are working pretty well, and that's upsetting a lot of scammers. Forced to adapt, phishing crooks are now banking on an old-fashioned fear - fear itself. According to PhishMe, these criminals are sending targeted emails to specific individuals, "informing" them of fake threats, like health risks in their office building.

If you receive an email like this, investigate; do not reply to the sender. It could be nothing more than an attempt to scare you into revealing more than you'd like. Speak about it to someone you really know and trust about it, or report it to an investigator, such as the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your country's own investigation service.

A Concerned Reader Wants to Know...

"How can a person remove personal information from the Internet?"

First, the bad news. As soon as any kind of information, including personal information, is online, anyone can copy and store or post it elsewhere. What's worse, there are tools that are constantly searching the Internet for specific types of data. Once they find it, they can grab it, copy it, post it and store it - for any number of purposes.

4 steps you can take if something gets online that you don't want:

1. Delete what you can yourself as soon as possible.

2. Contact the website(s) where it is located and ask them to remove it.

3. Enlist the help of a lawyer or online data removal service (e.g. Reputation Defender, Reputation Changer) to remove what you can't, or what the website won't.

4. Remain diligent and check often (for instance, by setting a Google Alert) to ensure you catch any reposting of the information. 


The hap-happiest season of all! 

Warmest wishes for a wonderfully happy, fun and safe holiday season, for all the many holidays that you and your family and friends may be celebrating during this time of year! 


Until next month, and next year,





More from the Privacy Professor Online...


Podcast: From my Q4 issue of "Protecting Information, "Protect Your Information on Social Media Sites"


Article: Your Mother Was Right: You Will Be Judged By The Company You Keep


Podcast: For those in the healthcare industry, "Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) Must Safeguard Data Sharing"



Rebecca Herold & Associates, LLC
Mobile: 515.491.1564, Business: 515.996.2199