The Dangers of Family Decals
In today's podcast we take a look at the information we're giving away to criminals on the back windows of our cars. I'm not advocating that we not personalize our vehicles, because I know that is important to some people. What I am saying is that we need to use our adversarial mindset, thinking like a bad guy, to see what we're telling criminals.
Also in this show I recommend a book by Robert J. Disario, Protect Yourself. You can find it at The Secure Dad Store. A portion of this post first appeared in December, 2016.
Car stickers are a big deal, they’re everywhere. You can show off your pride in your favorite team, especially if they are winning. You can boast your political affiliation or hatred for the other side. And a quick search on Amazon or Etsy will show you dozens of craftspeople ready to make you a custom sticker that showcases your individuality.
Even if you have a YETI or GLOCK sticker on your car, you might be giving criminals all the information they need to target you and your vehicle.
But there are dangers when it comes to these stickers. There’s no harm in letting people around you know that you are a Browns fan, in fact you may get a lot of sympathy from other drivers. But if you have a sticker that is a family of Browns fans with everybody’s name on it, you might be giving away too much information. Even if you have a YETI or GLOCK sticker on your car, you might be giving criminals all the information they need to target you and your vehicle.
The Information You Are Giving Away
As far back as 2009, the news reported the dangers of giving away too much personal information on your back window. Many people brushed off these warnings as being “too paranoid” or simply denied that they would ever be the victim of a crime. You may not believe it, but an accurate profile of a person can be gathered from their back window. Take this car:
1 - Initials
2 - University of Redacted
3 - Vineyard Vines Logo
4 - Lack of University Parking Sticker
Note: I redacted several other stickers that were not relevant
I can gather that the main driver is female because of the pink initials. She attends the University of Redacted and is a fan of Vineyard Vines (Pink Whale) which puts her at the age of 18-21. Also there is not a university parking sticker on the car which means she lives off campus, close enough to walk or take a shuttle. (Now you can argue that she is not a student since there is no parking decal, but at the time and place the photo was taken, it was obvious.)
A predator won’t seem like a predator if they know your name, school/workplace and first name. Don’t give away this information.
So how could this information be used against her? Let’s create a scene for some bad people to approach her. This is purely hypothetical and is intended to show how giving away too much information can be harmful.
Scene: Parking lot at dusk. Bad Guy 1 sees a girl walking toward the SUV. The Bad Guy is well dressed as he approaches her. He’s been texting next to another car to avoid attention.
Bad Guy 1: “Oh, hey Amber, how are you?”
Girl: “Um my name is not Amber.” [Keeps Walking to car, freaked out]
Bad Guy 1:[Following her] “Sorry, I always get names of former students confused. I’m Mike, I was a TA (Teacher Assistant) in your freshman history class. (A class everyone has to take.)
Girl: [Slows down] “Yea?”
Bad Guy 1: “I never forget a face, your first name starts with an ‘A’, right?” (Her initials are on the car window.)
Girl: “Yea, it’s Amanda.”
Bad Guy 1: “Right, Amanda!”
Amanda: [Stops beside her car to talk, as to not be rude.] “Yea, that class nearly killed me.”
At this point Amanda is stationary beside her car looking at Bad Guy 1. Bad Guy 2 rushes from behind her SUV and grabs her. Because Amanda was focused on Bad Guy 1 so she never saw Bad Guy 2 and the open trunk of the car beside hers. Bad Guy 2 then throws her into the open trunk. Bad Guy 1 picks up Amanda’s keys and drives off in her car. Bad Guy 2 drives off with Amanda in the trunk. It took 90 seconds.
In this hypothetical scenario the Bad Guys had all the information they needed to identify, distract and take their target. The information you give away on your window won’t be used to steal your bank account number. It will be used for someone to get close enough to hurt you. A predator won’t seem like a predator if they know your name, school/workplace and first name. Don’t give away this information.
Any information you broadcast on your car can be used against you, or worse you children.
Keep Your Family Off Your Window
Photo Credit: FamilyStickers.com
These stick figure families are very common. But they can reveal a lot about your home life and your typical activities. In the sticker above we see that dad is in the military so he is gone from home frequently. Mom has a glass of wine, so perhaps she is a self proclaimed “wine mom” who stays home.
The son plays football which means he has practice and games on weeknights and weekends, leaving the home empty. The baby is too young for school, so that means “wine mom” takes care of her at home. A bad guy could spot this vehicle at a grocery store where “wine mom” and baby get in the car and drive home. Then the bad guy knows the son is at school and the husband is away as well. This is enough information he needs to act.
Photo Credit: Etsy.com
Any information you broadcast on your car can be used against you, or worse you children. Having your child’s name and school on your car is especially dangerous. Children who know stranger danger will dismiss their teachings if the person knows their name. They’ll think this person knows them and that may be all the time a sexual predator needs to convince a child to go with them. They won’t scream, they won’t run and they won’t fight because they think this person knows them.
YETI and GLOCK
People assume that since they are not showing off their kid’s schools or honor roll status that any other sticker on their car is safe. This is not the case. The YETI stickers have become a status symbol where I live. If you have one, you’re envied by other drivers. But this sticker can make your vehicle a target for theft.
If someone is looking to break into a car in a parking lot, they will look inside cars for things left in the open. But if you broadcast your YETI status for the world to see, then your car is going to draw more attention because it is a safe assumption that there is a YETI cooler, or other high end items, in your truck. Don’t attract the extra attention.
1 - GLOCK Firearm Sticker
2 - Leupold Optics Sticker (Scopes for rifles.)
3 - YETI Sticker
Note: I redacted another sticker that was not relevant
Another false security is thinking that if you put a firearm logo sticker on your vehicle no one will mess with you. That is only partially true. While if you are seen coming and going from your truck, it is a safe assumption that you have a concealed carry permit and will not be an easy target.
However, concealed weapons are not allowed in all places, like schools for example. The photo of the truck above was taken at a place where concealed weapons are not allowed. So what does that mean? It means this truck has a higher probability of having a gun inside it, increasing the chances for a break in. From the looks of this truck there are several firearm stickers which may lead to the conclusion that there is more than one type of gun inside.
The worst object a criminal can take from your car is a gun. Now this gun can be used in other crimes and may end up killing someone if it is in the hands of a criminal. No one wants that to happen.
While showing off your individuality is a basic human desire, you must be careful what information you choose to share. If you have a stick figure family on your car, I highly suggest you take it off tonight. Replace it with an American flag or your favorite hockey team’s logo. Either way this is safer than letting a bad guy know how many people are in your family, their names and interests. The same goes for honor roll stickers, remove them. You will have many chances to personalize your car and express your individuality. Do not give a criminal the information they need to profile and target you. Be safe, be secure.