How To Protect Your Privacy In Public Places

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I spend a lot of time at Starbucks.

Not just because I enjoy over spending on mediocre beverages, but also because it’s the place I find most functional for writing.

In fact, guess where I’m writing these words right now?

Go ahead I’ll wait… 🙂

Yesterday I was sitting here at the big community table that most Starbucks stores have.

A young couple came into the store and sat down at the table, and started to pitch their supplemental insurance company sales position to an 18-year-old girl named Maria.

How do I know her name and age?

This couple spent about 20 minutes asking this high school girl questions and receiving answers that everyone sitting at the table could hear.

I know her full name, her age, where she attends high school, where she currently works, the hours she works, how much she makes at her job, her phone number, her parents names, her family history, and I could go on.

Now I can hardly remember my own family history and my own age, much less someone else’s, so this information went in one ear and out the other.

However, we all understand that there are loads of others out there who aren’t so forgetful, and would love to leverage these details for selfish gain.

Here’s a young girl barely out of the “minor” category who’s being put in a vulnerable situation simply due to the carelessness of a small business owner who should have known better.

I understand that you can learn a lot about someone just by creeping them on social media. In today’s ultra-social digital landscape, it’s easier than ever to find information if you want it.

However, as a victim of identity theft myself, I’m way more sensitive to reckless data handling then I used to be.

I’m the guy who shields his debit PIN entry at the grocery store, dims his laptop screen at the coffee bar, and subscribes his entire family to LifeLock.

I’m not phobic, but I’m not going to tee up my identity for someone and hand then a gold club either.

I have some customers who seemingly get their credit cards hacked every other month. They are constantly reaching out to update their payment method because “their card was compromised.”

Maybe I should let them know that keeping credit cards on their car dashboard is not the best idea. Or, maybe they are just really unlucky.

Regardless, there are some simple yet effective ways that on-the-go solopreneurs and entrepreneurs can protect their privacy and the privacy of their clients.

Here are a few ideas.

Protect your privacy by treating phone calls with care.

As a general rule, it’s a bad idea to take customer phone calls in public places.

This can pose a real challenge for mobile office solopreneurs, but find a way to keep your conversations private.

If you must field a call in public, be very sensitive about what you’re saying.

Don’t be the one to take a customer credit card over the phone and recite the number back to the client…and the adjacent table at Denny’s.

If at all possible, try to schedule client calls and keep them private.

Protect your client’s privacy by having private meetings in private.

My recent Starbucks experience was a classic example of how not to have a private business meeting.

That sales meeting was a scheduled event.

All three individuals rendezvoused for a private meeting in a venue that was highly public.

It was both reckless and irresponsible.

I’m not suggesting you never meet up for coffee or a sandwich with clients.

Just be aware of the nature of the meeting.

If sensitive information will be discussed, make privacy a priority.

So, where can you meet in private?

In my city, our local libraries have nice conference rooms you can reserve for free. Also, the co-work space I’m part of has private conference rooms you can reserve, or even rent as a non-member at a very low price.

I found this article on nfib.com that has several other great ideal for private and low-cost meeting spaces such as our local chamber of commerce, local banks, restaurant banquet rooms, hotel conference rooms, and more.

Protect your privacy by avoiding eavesreaders.

You know that one girl.

There’s just this uncomfortable feeling that she’s staring at your laptop screen all the time.

Or, that guy who’s sitting at just the right angle to take a gander at your email inbox.

You can’t really prove it, but it just feels bad.

While some of these eaves’ readers may simply be bored or just rude, others are not so innocent and they’ll make you pay as soon as they can.

If you work in a public place, invest in a quality privacy filter for your laptop screen.

It’s a protective overlay that blocks the view from all angles except dead center, where your eyes are. This will deter most of the peeping toms.

Also, if you need to step away from your laptop even for a minute, dim the screen to black so that there’s “nothing to see here.” 

Protect yourself by using proxy credit cards.

The more you use credit cards online, the more likely you are to have your card information “compromised.”

For some, this seems to be a constant battle.

Even the most cautious of us are vulnerable. It’s just a matter of time.

I was recently introduced to a service called privacy.com. It’s basically a proxy card number service that can help you virtually eliminate card fraud online.

Here’s how it works.

You open a privacy.com account and connect it to your checking account or debit card. Then, privacy.com will issue you any quantity of unique credit card credentials you need.

Also, you can lock them down to only certain vendors.

For instance, you could assign one “card number” to your Netflix account and tell privacy.com to only allow Netflix to charge it, and only for $15 per month. If anyone steals the number and tries to use it elsewhere if gets denied. Or if Netflix tries charging you $25 it gets denied.

Cool stuff!

Conclusion

There are lots of other ways to protect yourself and your clients as a mobile solopreneur.

What are some things you’re done to prioritize privacy?

I’d love to know!

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