Clouds Ahead: You're Not Private

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

If you are one of the people who do not have a smart phone or use a computer, you can skip this one. Otherwise, stay tuned.

You have no privacy.

At least that is the assumption you should make. In this 10th installment of my whacking-you-with-a-fish series, I’m trying to point out that you need to do two things to protect your privacy in the Information Age: 1) Assume your private information is no longer private and take steps to mitigate the damage it could cause, and 2) Do everything you can to keep #1 from being true.

I’ve been told by many that there is no way they would do anything that would put their privacy in jeopardy, and that may be true.  However, you likely have a credit bureau report, and in 2017 hackers stole 145.5 million individual records from a major credit bureau.  In total, billions of individual data records have become public knowledge through data breaches over the last decade. Whether you know it or not, you have been hacked, and your privacy is at risk.

I’ve had my Social Security number lost by a governmental agency (interestingly, one who says I would have no excuse if I lost a customer’s number). And just the other day, a congressional report found that H&R Block, TaxAct, and other firms shared customer data, including names, income, etc., with Facebook and Google.

Just do an internet search for “Data Breaches” and you will get back millions of hits.  Knowing this, you should always take precautions—making the assumption somebody out there knows a lot about you.

By now you’ve probably figured out that just because someone calls your cell phone number, they may not actually know you. But also know that if someone calls you, mentions that they hope you had a good time celebrating your kid’s birthday and reminisces about the last time y’all talked at the local coffee place…it might just be someone you’ve never met trying to gain your trust.

Or it may be AI that just put two and two together. Somehow, based on my viewing habits, and perhaps information cross referenced via Google, I see advertisements when I watch YouTube aimed at financial advisors. I’m pretty sure I’ve never told them what business I’m in. So even if nothing has been hacked, computer systems are playing Sherlock Holmes and bettering their ability to deduce the truth about you.

The smartest guy I know in this area is Steve Haviland, CEO of BTSG (Business Technology Solutions Group). BTSG provides managed technology solutions and cybersecurity solutions to businesses here in Wichita Falls, Lawton, and Oklahoma City. Here are a few ideas from him I want to share with you:

Steve recommends using the acronym S.T.O.P. to remember to Scrutinize any request for personal information on websites, text messages, and emails. Give yourself time to Think before sharing personal information.  Opt-Out from emails you don’t need or want and avoid websites that have a history of being hacked. And Protect yourself by using defensive technologies like firewalls, antivirus software, and spam blockers.

May God protect the innocents in Ukraine.