Everyone worries about personal safety and the biggest threats are closer than you think.
Nick Montano is a licensed private investigator. I recently talked to him about how your everyday items can cost you everything. For example don’t put your home address into your GPS system. If someone steals your car they have a direct link to your home and already know that you’re not there. Montano says your address should not be so easily accessible.
“If people don’t know where they live they shouldn’t be driving a car. You don’t need to have your home address in your GPS if you can’t find your way home you should walk.”
Montano says you should also password protect your cell phones and avoid putting a hold on your mail for vacations.
“People get lazy and that’s what the bad guys are hoping for that you get lazy because they’re greedy so they can wait you out.”
For more security threats and tips check out the interview below. Give a thief and inch and they’ll take everything.
Interview with Nick Montano
Q: What is it that you do?
We investigate crimes against persons and property and investigate white collar crime.
Q: How did you get started?
I started out in law enforcement
Q: How has the digital world changed the course of crime over the past 33 years?
It’s made it easier for the criminals to do it from their bedroom or kitchen as opposed to going out in the field
Q: What are some examples of the types of crime we are seeing now? For example you mentioned it’s a bad idea to put a hold on your mail.
Right if you go on vacation and you call the newspaper delivery service they put a hold on your newspaper and you come back and you get your newspaper. However suppose someone got a hold of that list and they went out and started robbing houses that had a newspaper hold.
Q: You also mentioned that people should be careful about how they name the contacts in their cell phone?
Correct, same way with your vehicle and your license. If you have your license with your home address on it and you lose your purse or your wallet crooks know how to get to your home. There’s no law that I know of currently that says you have to have your home address on your driver’s license or your car registration. You just have to be able to get mail when you get a parking ticket. I haven’t had my home address on my driver’s license my whole career, neither have my daughters or any family members.
You should also have mail sent to your office or to a postal service box. It’s worth the $10 a month they charge to have the mail come there instead of your home.
Q: What about putting your home address in your GPS?
If people don’t know where they live they shouldn’t be driving a car. You don’t need to have your home address in your GPS if you can’t find your way home you should walk. Even your starting point should be the Safeway down by the freeway on-ramp, you don’t have to put your home address as the point you’re leaving from.
Q: What are some things people can do in this changing world to protect themselves?
Well they should all have an email address they only use for online shopping. They should only have one credit card, if they’re going to pay their bills by credit card they should keep that credit card at home and never carry it in their wallet. So if they lose their wallet they don’t have to worry about calling everyone up and changing their credit card information.
There’s no more privacy. Privacy as we know it is gone the genies out of the bottle so we need to protect our own privacy because no one’s going to do it for us; not the government, not law enforcement, not your mom no one.
Q: What is the biggest threat to us now? Is it our smartphones, is it email, is it Facebook?
You named just about all of them. Because anytime you have your name out there especially on a digital format it’s subject to being hacked. I just got something today from a car dealership that a number of credit reports had been stolen. And a credit report is where all the money is. And these days what people are doing is going out and opening a bunch of credit cards in your name and sitting on them. Then one day you get a call saying you owe someone $50,000.
Q: Is that the biggest problem these days; are more people becoming victims to identity theft?
Every day you hear about some poor person somewhere that lost their whole life savings or they lost their credit card they lost their credit history, they’ve been thrown in jail. That’s the scary part is people getting arrested for crimes they never committed.
Q: Any other tips on how people can avoid becoming a victim?
Stay in a cave, don’t leave.
You have to be diligent on your security and your protection and you have to make sure that you don’t put your social security number out there that you don’t put your home address out there, you protect as much as you can. If you don’t do that no one’s going to do it for you so you know when you go to the DMV have your car registered to come back to your home office or to your mailbox.
If you move a lot or travel you should have a post office box where all your mail goes. Then you don’t have to put in a change of address form. If someone is living in your old apartment and they continue to get your mail, they could fill out a credit card application in your name and you wouldn’t even know about it.
Q: What are some warning signs that people should look out for?
Everyone should join these credit reporting bureaus and check their credit online at least once a month. The sooner you catch it the less damage you’ll have. That’s the biggest thing we all have is our credit and our finances.
Q: When you first started your business, what was the biggest type of crime you faced back then?
You know the biggest problem back then was theft of personal property. But at the same time I think the crimes were just burglars breaking into people’s homes then they wanted you to go out and find the jewelry in a pawn store and now they don’t have that as much. Now they’re just stealing the credit card and buying jewelry, they don’t need to steal your jewelry.
Q: Do you think that technology is doing us more harm than good?
It depends how you feel when you wake up. Some days we need technology other days it could be a real pain for us. Technology is here to stay so we need to find a way to make it safe for everyone to use technology. The banks have been doing a great job, the internet’s been doing a great job, it could be a lot worse then we know.
Q: Is it going to become harder for people to protect themselves online?
I think it’s a battle everyday between the good guys and the bad guys. We come up with technology to stop them and they come up with technology to circumvent it so it’s a cops and robbers situation and it will be that way until the end of time probably.
Q: What side is winning?
Well in some areas the bad guys are winning, in the international counterfeiting cases the bad guys are winning by a magnitude. But as far as the day to day electronic age I think it’s pretty even right now.