One day in my Networking class my teacher asked us how many of us had flash drives - Almost everyone raised their hands. He then asked how many encrypted their flash drives - Almost no one raised their hands. He followed this up by calling us all stupid and recounting a story in which he happened upon a flash drive a year prior. In an attempt to determine the owner he went to check the files for a name, and ended up finding the student's resume with all of their personal information on it. He said it was incredible and terrifying how easy it could be to find information on someone.
A few days later I decided to do him one better. I work as a cashier at a supermarket, and realized that it is a very easy thing to do just to pick up information on people when ringing up their orders. I spent my entire last shift listing the different pieces of information that I could gather on one person, and here are the results I came up with:
The store uses one of those "Club Cards" for customers to get deals. Right off the bat I know your name from the moment you scan that card. If you forget it at home, the store can use your phone number to look up the card, and then it lists some information for us to quiz you on to confirm that it is your card. So, just by looking up your card I now know your name , your address (Street, State, City and Zip Code, your phone number, your Club Card Number, and well as the names of every relative also registered to that phone number. All of this just from looking up your Club Card if you forget it. Even better, if looking up the phone number doesn't successfully find the card, the next step in the procedure is to take your driver's license and use that information to find your card. You can fill in the blanks there.
In addition to that, if I have access to a store computer, I can use the Club Card Number to look up all of that and even more information, including your email address, your date of birth, and even your driver's license number. But as long as you keep remembering your card you're safe, right? I can't look up the information on your card without the card number after all.
Well, how many of you tell the cashier to throw out the receipt for you or to just keep it? By doing that you are also leaving them with information. From the receipt I can get your club card number, the store you shop at, your shopping habits, how much money you normally spend and, depending on the method of payment, how much money you keep in your checking account. And because the receipt has the club card number, I have all of the information that goes with that as well.
Methods of paying other than cash can be risky as well. If a Credit Card fails to scan in the register's terminal three times in a row, the cashier needs to enter the number in manually - meaning that I now have access to your name and your credit card number. Same goes for your debit card number. If you pay with a check, just by reading the front of it I can gather your name, your spouse's name, your address, your bank, and sometimes depending on the check your phone number.
The important thing to remember is that a lot of important information is right there in the open. Any person who is paying enough attention can notice these things and piece them together properly.
Other things that I managed to pick up just from watching people weren't necessarily related to the job itself. If you have a lot of key chain sized membership cards to different stores, I could make a mental catalog of where you shop. Also, if you like to stop by the store to pick up a drink or snack before/after you go to work, be careful about your uniform. Just by coming in ready for work I now know where you work, and if you have a name badge your name and your work position.
Other things to keep an eye out for are military pins to see any military history or affiliation, rings to see your marital status, or medical bracelets to see any allergies or medical conditions (also if you are buying prescription drugs). One gentleman that day actually had a necklace with his horoscope on it as well. Crosses or other religious jewelery/items can show what religion you are a part of.
Some of this information seems completely harmless on its own, but just look at them all together. Whether it's for stalking, identity theft, or anything else like that, I just managed to create a strong profile on you, based on casual things that you do every week - Going to the store, looking up your card, and paying for your groceries.
There are two things that I want everyone to take away from this article.
1.) Play your cards close to your chest, because there is a lot of sensitive information about you that can be very easy to obtain.
2.) Keep your eyes and mind open, because you never know when something useful will just be staring you in the face.
Remember: "God gave us two eyes, two ears and one mouth, so that we may listen twice as much as we speak."
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