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WV State Privacy Office

100 Dee Drive
Charleston, WV 25311

304-558-7000 Phone
304-558-7001 Fax

 Do You Know Who's Listening In?

West Virginia Executive Branch
Privacy Tip of the Week


Do You Know Who’s Listening In?

Question:

So I was at Macy’s over the weekend and overheard a customer giving her name, social security number and mailing address to a sales associate. I guess she was applying for a store charge card or maybe having them look up her account number. Anyway, if I weren’t an honest person I could use that info to apply for credit in other places. Don’t people realize how serious that could be?


Answer:

Data privacy isn’t just about electronic or paper records. Think about all of the conversations you have over the phone. Privacy is an issue that should be considered whenever you are discussing business, or providing your own personally identifiable information (PII) to another party. Do you know who’s listening in?

Here are some things you can do to ensure your conversations stay private:
  • Take note of who’s around you. Don’t take business or sensitive calls in restaurants or other public places. When you are about to have a phone conversation that may involve confidential business or private matters, take a moment to look around and note who may be able to overhear your conversation. If necessary, move to another location to take the call.
  • Be sure you know who’s at the other end of the line! Do you really know who you are talking to? It’s great if you recognize the person’s voice, but how many people/organizations do you talk to and give PII or even sensitive information without really knowing who it is? Just because someone says they are an employee with your banking institution doesn’t mean it is true.
  • Use common sense in making phone calls. If you are going to be speaking with your doctor or bank about very sensitive PII, don’t make that call in the presence of others! It is very easy to collect PII through eavesdropping. A nine-digit number is very likely to be that person’s social security number. A sixteen-digit number is probably their credit card number. And what follows a credit card number? Usually it’s the correct spelling of their name on the card and then the three or four-digit security code on the card. Be very careful when providing your PII over the phone.
  • Don’t leave sensitive PII in voice mail. Are you sure the voicemail box belongs to the person you are trying to reach? Many people have automated, computerized voice mail services so you can’t be sure the mailbox is owned by the person you want to speak with. You also don’t know who may be retrieving that message.

Note: Your agency/bureau/department/division may have specific requirements – always check your policies and procedures. If you have questions, contact your Privacy Officer.

 

 
 

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