Your Phone and Privacy

Lea Snyder
by Lea Snyder

Recently I posted an article called “Windows calling to the faraway towns …” to the BSRT website which talked a bit about a scam that has been around for awhile in which individuals receive calls from Windows letting them know their machine has a virus. Yes you read that correctly — Windows calling. I thought I could expand my thoughts on protecting your privacy over the phone as we so often focus on protecting your privacy while on the internet but protecting your privacy is critical no matter the vehicle – the internet, the phone, the mail, etc.

My M.O. is to give out as little information as possible via the phone. I often refuse to give any information to anyone who calls me. My logic is that I have no easy way to confirm the representative who is calling is from the company(banks, credit cards, etc), non-profits, or any other entity they claim to be. The caller could easily be engaging in pretexting — the practice of gathering your private data under false pretense. I am especially wary if someone ask for my social security number, address, birth date, or credit card number. (To be completely frank I’m always wary when someone asks for this information no matter the vehicle and will request personal information not be tied to my social security number whenever possible).

Phone operator talking into mouthpieceIn general, I rarely answer calls from numbers I do not recognize. This is true at work also — scammers are just as likely to call at work as they are on your landline or cell phone. Furthermore, you should also limit giving out information on your co-workers. I direct callers who ask for this type of information to the main line for my department and leave it at that.

The FTC has a great write-up on pretexting and protecting yourself. Fundamentally, you need to treat your privacy and private data as something you want to protect. You always need to think and act with your privacy hat on if you want to limit your private data being exposed to the wrong people.