What Your Car’s Vinyl Family Graphics Tells Criminals

We’ve all seen the dad, mom, son, daughter & family pet vinyl graphics glued on to the rear windows of vehicles.  (One can select the graphics that accurately reflect his family’s composition.) My personal favorite is the one depicting the father holding a briefcase, an empty space next to him, his son’s outline followed by that of the daughter, the baby and then the family dog.  In the area above the missing wife’s space is the message, “Position available”.  Very cute, seemingly innocuous and yet, by most of us in the law, legal and law enforcement fields, viewed with concern.

“In order to defeat bad guys, you have to think like one.”  – Col. Timothy B. Mills, one of my very first mentors in the criminal investigation field.

If I’m a bad guy and I am casing a neighborhood, I am more likely to break into a home with young children- especially a baby.   Parents are extremely vulnerable when confronted with their children’s safety or very lives.  As a bad guy, whether it’s burglary or kidnapping that I’m about to commit, I will use every intimidation method I know.  Threatening the life of an infant or young child will, more likely than not, force the adult victims into compliance.

So while family graphics are pretty on a Prius, cool on a Camry and hopeful (see above re: wife advertising!) on a Honda, they’re also dangerous involving derelicts.

Get a Mt. Rushmore bumper sticker if you must but do not announce to the world the composition of your household.  While the majority of people are good, all you need is one bad element to destroy the safety of your home and family environment.

Be proactive and more reluctant to share your family information with strangers at large.

BNI Operatives:  Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Behavior That Can Endanger You and Your Family.

We’re all guilty of it.  “It” being –  intentionally or not – exposing our private information in public.  Below are examples of this behavior that unnecessarily puts you and your family at risk.

1. Family graphics on a vehicle.

family car vinyl graphics

The criminal’s view of your adorable family stick-on:  If you have this family graphic on your vehicle, the burglar knows you have a baby in the family and therefore less inclined to fight back. Dad carrying a briefcase implies he’s the worker in the family, i.e., away during the day and or for work trips.  Given the number of children, perhaps Daddy’s wife is a soccer Mom (busy with errands), in and out on a routine (taking kids to school,  to play dates, practice, picking up kids…).  And if the dog is the same size as the cat, I’d put my money on the cat being the family protector.  This graphic is  way  TMI.

2. Responding with your date of birth, insurance carrier and or SSN in a pharmacy.

pharmacy

Discretely hand the pharmacist or pharmacy assistant your driver’s license or other form of valid government I.D. Ensure that you are fully blocking the view of the person behind you.  A bit of paranoia is preferred, especially if your medication is a desired prescription drug (e.g., Xanax, Valium, painkiller of any kind…).  If the employee behind the counter begins to comment, cut them off and ask them to respect your privacy.  Hey, it’s your info and these personal identifiers (especially DOBs and SSNs)  are extremely valuable to your local unauthorized pharmaceutical retailer.

3.  Posting photos of the family in front of the house, even if the address is not evident in the pic.

family ifo house

Most cameras and smartphones add location information to each picture taken, exposing the exact longitude and latitude of the image to anyone who wishes to view this geotagging data.  (On a positive note, social sites such as FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter automatically remove these geotags before posting. Common photo sharing sites such as Flickr, however, allow the embedded geographical information to remain.)  The pic taker/poster is often unaware of this invisible, embedded data.

How to locate and erase geotagging data:

a. Determine if your camera is geotagging your pictures. Any camera you use must have GPS enabled in order for geotagging to occur. This is very common in smartphones but many digital cameras have this capability as well. This data, called EXIF data, is invisible unless you know how to look for it.

b. To view EXIF data, go to Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer (JEV), a very easy to use information locator that supports a wide variety of file types. JEV also  provides two different options for viewing geotagged images. The first allows you to view information from images already online. The second allows you to check images before they are posted online.  Follow the site directions. (For images stored on your computer, press Browse beside the Local Image File box. Choose the file in question and press View Image From File. You’ll receive the same geotagging info as you would for posted and on-camera photos.)

Now you know exactly what details you are providing to friends, family and potentially, strangers.  If you don’t want your location available, erase all EXIF data before posting or turn off GPS functionality when taking pictures with GPS enabled devices.

These starter tips can be helpful this summer in preserving your safety and that of your family but in all cases, just exercise common sense in unintentionally exposing your personal identifier information.

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

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