Practice the Privacy Reflex

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The Privacy Reflex
When I am training corporate executives, managers and employees to detect fraud and social engineering (manipulative information-gathering techniques), I take them through what it feels like to be conned. In other words, I actually socially engineer them several times throughout the presentation so that they begin to reflexively sense when more fraud is coming. There is no substitute for experiencing this first hand.

The Trigger—Requests for Identity
Spies are trained to instantly react when anyone asks for information of any kind, whether it is theirs or someone else’s. The trigger, or what causes you to be on high alert, is actually very simple—it is the appearance of your identity in any form (wallet, credit card, tax form, passport, driver’s license, etc.). Anytime someone requests or has access to any of the names, numbers or attributes that make up your identity, or to the paper, plastic, digital or human data where your identity lives, the trigger should trip and sound an alarm in your head.

When your identity is being requested in any way, slow down and ask yourself: Is the risk of giving this piece of identity away in this specific situation worth the benefit?

The Reflex—HOGWASH!
By training, when a spy’s trigger has been, well, triggered, a specific word, phrase or picture automatically pops into their head, whether they actively think about it or not. If the word (also called a trigger) is a bit out-of-the-ordinary and the picture is humorous, you almost can’t help but noticing when it appears. The trigger that I use in many of my keynote speeches is the word HOGWASH! Here is my definition of Hogwash:

Hogwash |hôg wô sh | n. 1. A gut reaction that someone is manipulating you for their own gain, or feeding you a line of bull in order to deceive you (e.g., I’ll just borrow your password for a short time); 2. Healthy skepticism that persists until the person requesting information from you proves they are worthy of your trust (e.g., Until you prove to me that you actually need my Social Security number, I think you are full of Hogwash). Syn. baloney, malarkey, nonsense, horse manure, prove-it-to-me.

Once this word pops into your head you need to slow down and formulate your response. But don’t let them off the hook yet, because social engineers are masters at using your natural biases against you.

The Response—Slow Down & Observe
When an outsider has access to your identity, your trigger should automatically activate without thinking about it (Hogwash!). Your first response should be to heighten your level of Observation. View the situation as a child would—with curious eyes. You can even borrow what we teach our children to be more aware in dangerous situations—Stop, Look and Listen:
Stop what you are doing. Reject the pressure to multitask and be more efficient. Don’t talk on your cell phone or think about what you need to do next. Reject the assumption that faster is better. Slow down and be present only to what is happening right around you. Don’t answer questions, hand over forms, or type a response until you are comfortable with the situation.

Next time you think you are the victim of a manipulative identity thief, remember the Privacy Reflex and don’t be afraid to think HOGWASH and ask the necessary questions!

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC.  To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076


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