When something goes missing, most of us are very vulnerable and will part will certain personal information in the hope that we get it back. When we lose something, it's tempting to bare as personal information thinking this might help. In the majority of cases, sharing some personal information usually does but there are a number of instances where this is a bad thing.
In an age of digital information, our personal data can expose all sorts of vulnerabilities. Knowing certain things about someone can enable criminals to find out more about them. You wouldn't expect a criminal to take advantage when you lose an item, but the sad reality is they do because the digital world makes it easy for them.
Given to the wrong person, your personal data can cause havoc in your life. Let me give you a scenario which might seem ludicrous to some, but is actually a reality for many... You lose your key but a neighbour has a spare so you can at least get home. You put a post on social media asking to be notified of any keys that are found in the area. Someone finds your key and notifies you. You agree to collect it from them thinking that you're being smart by not allowing them to know where you live. You collect the key and go home thinking everything is back to normal... What you didn't know though is that the person you collected the key from has already made a copy of it. They've discreetly followed you home and now they know where you live. All they have to do, is wait until you've gone to work and they can simply open your door, walk in and help themselves. It's not a difficult thing to do.
Another scenario is you lose a wallet containing credit cards. A lot of credit card companies now temporarily disable cards when they are reported missing, but then reinstate them when they are found. You put a notice up in the local supermarket with your mobile number. You know your address isn't in your wallet so you think you're pretty safe. Think again. Like many people, your mobile number might expose your address when it's searched for online. You might think that because your credit card is frozen, it doesn't matter. But what happens when you get your wallet back and normal service is resumed? Someone else could potentially have your credit card number, expiry date, CCV code, address, name and mobile number. All the information they need to make purchases online at your expense.
That's just a couple of scenarios of many. The point I'm trying to make is it's easier than you think for criminals to take advantage of something as simple as losing a key. You lose your key but could potentially be losing a lot more if you're not careful.
Social media is a great tool but if you lose something, be very careful what information you make public. Rather than giving away your name and any other personal information to anyone, restrict any posts you write to just your friends. Where possible, get a local group to post on your behalf asking for anyone who finds a missing item to report it to them. It's less likely a local group will have participants that are engaged in any criminal activity.
A lot of people are tempted to put up small posters or notes in shop windows. This is definitely a bad thing to do as most of these notes will contain a name and phone number, exposing part of your identity. Most local communities are pretty safe on the surface, but unfortunately criminals are taking more advantage of the good nature of most people in community groups.
Tracing your steps when you lose something is a good way of finding our how and where you may have lost it. Visit all the places you've been that day. Ask around if anything has been handed in or left behind. In most cases, if an item has been left with say a shopkeeper, they won't expect you to give them your personal details to get the item back. Instead, they'll just need an accurate description of the item to match it. If anyone asks for your personal details, for example to call you if someone reports anything, don't be tempted to give anything away. It's far to easy for your personal data to be shared when it shouldn't be.
iFoundThis is a service that allows anyone to recover items they lose without having to disclose any personal information at all. Items are tagged using a simple code that identifies the owner. If the item goes missing and someone finds it, they fill in a quick form online and the owner can choose from various levels of recovery including one called ‘relay recover’ whereby both the finder and owners details are kept confidential from each other and from anyone else. That means you can get your lost item back without anyone, other than the postal service, knowing anything about you. It's a great method for recovering lost items like keys, mobiles, wallets, membership cards and any other item that could expose you to criminals.
Written by Andrew Simeou
12th Jun 2019
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