If you’re one of the millions of people affected by hurricanes each year, it’s important to remember your home isn’t the only thing that needs protecting — you need to safeguard your privacy as well! That’s because hackers, identity thieves, and criminals of all types exploit natural disasters for their own gain. In today’s article, we’ll take a look at five tips you can use to protect your privacy during hurricane season and beyond.
Tip #1: Be selective about social media posting
You should always think twice about what you share on social media, but this is especially true if you’re evacuating. Criminals frequently troll Facebook and other networks to identify targets who may be leaving their home unguarded. This makes it much easier for thieves to determine who to rob. If your family is heading out of town, be very selective who you tell — both online and IRL.
Tip #2: Don’t share photos of your luggage tags or airplane tickets
You should never share photos of your luggage tags or airplane tickets online. Cybercriminals can use this information to collect more data about you than you probably realize. The barcode of your boarding pass contains sensitive information, like your name, date of birth, and a passenger name record (PNR).
Your PNR is tied to the airline reservation system and contains a great deal of data you should keep private. This includes, in part:
- Your name and birthdate
- Your passport number and details
- Car or hotel bookings made through the airline
- Your email address
- Telephone number
- The last four digits of your credit card as well as the name on the credit card
- Special service requests, as well as optional service instructions like upgrades, languages, and luggage
Tip #3: Be cautious with unknown WiFi networks
Joining public WiFi, even if it’s password protected, has many risks. If you need to transfer funds or handle other sensitive matters online, do as much as you can from a secure network you trust. You should also verify that you’re using the most up-to-date versions of all your software.
If you must use WiFi in a public setting — and you most likely will — consider using a virtual private network (VPN). Many are available for less than $10. Though before you purchase one, you may want to read our article about what features to consider, as well as PC Mag’s reviews of the best VPNs for iPhones and Androids.
Tip #4: Always be vigilant
In today’s digital era, it’s easy to grow fatigued from all of the software update notifications, new security risks, and evolving protocols. However, it’s imperative to your privacy and the safety and security of your family that you stay alert and vigilant. This is especially true during times of natural disaster.
Phishing and vishing scams are getting remarkably complex, and cybercriminals can use a wide array of deceptions to obtain your personal data. They can send you false travel updates, say a loved one needs help, or take other actions you might not question during a time of crisis.
In situations like these, exercise extreme caution. If something feels off about a phone call or email, trust your gut! This is true even if you’re not directly affected by Hurricane Florence. Scammers will likely pose as real victims in an effort to defraud the victim’s friends, loved ones, and co-workers.
Tip #5: Put a hold on your mail and newspapers
Finally, make use of more traditional privacy protection tactics, like putting a hold on your mail. Nothing says “Hi, we’re not home right now” like a stack of soaked Amazon boxes and fifteen papers piled up in the driveway.
If you’re evacuating, you probably don’t have time to travel down to your local post office branch, but you can use this link when you’re settled: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail. You might also consider putting a hold on your newspapers. Your family — and your paperboy/girl — will be grateful!
Most importantly, stay safe out there.