When you travel, how conscious are you of what you say…and where you say it? On a recent flight I was seated next to two young ladies who appeared to be taking a vacation together.
As I listened to their excited chatter, I was startled to realize how much information they shared. Within half an hour of takeoff, I knew their first names, what school they attended, where they were going, and the fact that they were sisters en route to meet their mother at an exotic vacation destination. Together, at top volume, they looked up information online about the hotel they would be staying in one city before traveling to the next city to meet up with their mother. It was only when the man sitting behind us offered a restaurant suggestion that I decided to step in and speak up.
I couldn’t help myself. As a former federal law enforcement officer I was concerned about a variety of crimes that could stem from their innocent chatter. As a woman who frequently travels alone, I was horrified that someone else had taken notice of their conversation and was anxious to let them know how dangerous their conversation could be.
I took out my iPad and showed them how easy “social engineering” is for criminals…even with very basic information, someone could use what they said to learn a great deal more about them. I showed them what school they went to, what profession one of the sisters was in, and they turned pale when I showed them their mother’s social media privacy settings…which needed tightening up…and found their brother’s information, their dog’s name and other highly personal details. I talked to them about kidnappings, both virtual and real-life, and about criminals who target young women like them in nightclubs and hotels around the globe. We talked about identity theft, and how vulnerable they could be if total strangers like me could learn all that in a short time. And by the time that flight landed, I had extracted a promise from them: they would keep public conversation free of detail, and they would have their mother tune up her privacy settings. We are all potentially vulnerable when we share information in public. When you travel, reduce your risk: lock down social media accounts, do a check-up on those around you, and opt for a minimalist approach to conversation…because when it comes to personal safety, little things do matter.
Photo credit: Dirk Desmet via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND