Last week, I received a letter from the Neiman Marcus Group stating that my payment card was used fraudulently. The President and CEO was very sorry and deeply regretted what had happened, noting that it was a most unfortunate intrusion. During the months of November and December, I made purchases at Target more than 30 times. I hadn’t noticed any illegal activity associated with that hacking scandal, but I did discover that unapproved iTunes purchases were connected to my user name and password. It’s a rough time to be a frequent shopper.
Just this weekend, my family and I spent a couple of days at Easton Mall near Columbus. Every time I thought about buying something, I didn’t question the price. I questioned whether the stores had proper security measures in place to protect my debit or credit card information. My husband despises the barrage of questions that he’s hit with at the check-out counters.
“Home telephone number?”
“Contact information so we can send you news about upcoming sales?”
“What is your full name and address for our customer loyalty program?”
His face turns the color of a hothouse tomato, and he politely — but directly — informs the sales associates that they don’t need that stuff to sell him a New York Yankees hat. In this sporting goods store, he turned over two twenties and walked out of the mall leaving no trace of himself.
“Leave no print, Katy,” he said, patting me on the back as if I were his young son. “Leave no print.”
On our next stop, I was in a gourmet cooking supply store and confronted with the same line of questioning.
“Are you in our system?” the associate asked. I nodded yes and announced that I receive catalogs.
“Let’s update that address, shall we?” he asked.
The pressure was on. Do I…or don’t I?
“What will it be used for?” I asked quietly.
“So we can email you the receipt,” he said. “And, if you have any problems with your purchases, we’ll have the transaction on file so you won’t have to bother with that receipt.”
Ok, so you want my information to email me a receipt that I won’t need anyway — to return dish towels?
I stammered and then confirmed my email address, speaking in hushed tones so the woman behind me wouldn’t hear. This had become ridiculous!
After bagging four striped towels and an apron, the associate handed me a printed receipt.
Damn! Fooled again!
Retail stores train their associates to be tricky little suckers. Yet, I’m in control of my own information, and I don’t have to offer one single piece of data if I don’t want to. Now that my daughter is becoming a consumer of apps and a user of different academic websites, I need to teach her how to “leave no print” as her father coaches.
- Never post personal contact information on websites or blogs, such as cellphone numbers, home and/or email addresses.
- Never allow a social networking site to post the user’s location, such as a “sent from” notification that accompanies uploaded photos and text messages or posts.
- Never disclose the activities of other people or where other people are located, unless it’s to identify the company of a parent or guardian. Posting their activities could put them at risk, too.
- Never post a password or a user ID online, or in the body of an email — not even to a trusted recipient.
- Apply all privacy blocks and locks on social networking sites.
- Be mindful of student directories or other type of campus publications that publish specific information, such as email addresses or physical locations such as apartment numbers.
- Leave application lines or categories blank that are used for solicitation purposes. This includes physical addresses, cellphone numbers, and email addresses.
- Unless you have no choice, never volunteer credit or debit card information on a cellphone, and only provide account information to companies in which you have initiated business of some sort.
- Never leave receipts behind or toss them carelessly in trash cans. Destroy all personal information, even if the receipt reveals only the last four digits of the account.
- Protect your social security card and never carry credit or debit cards that aren’t used on a regular basis. Keep cards in a safe location at home until they are needed for use.
My daughter doesn’t have a checking account yet, but she does have an online presence by way of email and school-based websites. Since our run-ins with identity theft, first with a Kroger Card, then with iTunes, and now Neiman Marcus, we’ve been preaching the importance of “just say NO” to requests for personal information. While it may be impossible to “leave no print”, it is possible to teach our kids to be more secretive. And we’ll be keeping close tabs on their accounts as well as our own.
Leave no doubt.