The Statistics are scary, and the process to remove your information from public web sites is daunting, but its well worth it.
- “Every 79 seconds, a thief steals someone’s identity, opens accounts in the victim’s name and goes on a buying spree.”
- “Experts report that a victim can spend anywhere from six months to two years recovering from identify theft.”
- “More than 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years…To deal with problems, consumers reported nearly $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.
– The New York Times
- “In one notorious case of identity theft, the US Department of Justice reported that the criminal incurred over $100,000 of credit card debt. obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles and hand guns in the victim’s name all the while calling his victim to taunt him.”
– US Department of Justice Web site
How do you prevent your personal information getting into the wrong hands?
Start by always being very careful about giving out any personal information. Confirm the identity of anyone you give information to via the phone, mail or on the internet. Keep your social security card in a secure place and do not carry it with you.
Protect your mail – incoming and outgoing. Deposit outgoing mail into a post office collection box and remove incoming mail promptly from your mailbox. A lock on your mailbox is advisable.
Be smart, not lazy, about your passwords and PINs. When creating a password avoid using all numbers or all letters, avoid using consecutive letters and/or numbers, use both lower and upper case letters and it is recommended that all passwords have a minimum length of 8 characters. There are actually sites you can go out to that will test the strength of your password, such as http://www.passwordmeter.com/.
Finally, always watch your statements for any purchases, charges, etc., that you did not make. If you find anything that you do not recognize, report these charges promptly to the credit card issuer. Shred anything that has your credit card number as well as the credit card offers you receive in the mail.
Does Homeowners Insurance Provide any Coverage?
Many policies now do include coverage for the extra expenses incurred as a result of an Identity Theft situation and most banks and credit card providers will cover the fraudulent charges. According to US law, once you have reported the loss or theft of your credit card, you have no more responsibility for unauthorized charges.
Want to Regain Some Privacy?
Squidoo has some excellent information about regaining your privacy when it comes to the online world.
(1) Intelius is a most well-known people search engine on Internet, its targets every Internet visitor or anyone lives in the United States. Many background search websites are actually associated with Intelius. Intelius provides background information to anybody on anyone regardless who you are- unless you take an action to make your information unavailable. The infamous DateCheck site is also hosted by Intelius. Their reports include your name, address, date of birth, court records, unlisted or mobile number, and other personal info as described in the last section. You can search personal records by name, SSN, or by phone number, etc through Intelius.
Here is the good news, as a courtesy, Intelius can ‘opt out’ your specific information from the Intelius’s Search service. Your name as it appears in a particular record and the associated identifying information such as your address and phone number will be suppressed.
To remove your personal information from Intelius, they need some documents from you to confirm your identity. There are two ways to show your identity: (1) You would need to fax a copy of your driver license, you can cross-out your photo and license number, they only require your name, address and DOB; (2) Send them a notarized form confirms your identity.
At Intelius , under their Privacy section, there are instructions on how to remove your personal information from Intelius.
(2) Acxiom.com is probable the biggest personal information data provider behind the scene. It has been described as “one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of.” I used to trade its stock – ACXM. From reading their 10Q and 10K annual reports, I learned all big search engines such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, Lycos.com, WhoWhere.com etc are powered by Acxiom. Last year, Acxiom generated over $1.2 billion revenue from selling personal information. If you want to remove your private information from major search engines like Google or Yahoo, this is the first step you should take – have Acxiom remove your personal information from its data source either through your own effort or through other online personal information removal websites.
Acxiom has two databases. One database provide background check for businesses and law enforcements, and another database is provided for general public which powers the search engines. The data for businesses and law enforcements includes very sensitive financial information and social security numbers, your personal information cannot be removed from this database, but you can select to remove your personal information from the general public database. You can make such a request through email or phone call. Visit Acxiom website for details on how to remove your data from Acxiom or email firstname.lastname@example.org, check their Privacy Statement. Be warned, it won’t be easy to get it done without giving them more personal information first.
(4) WhitePages.com – just like a regular hard copy white page book, whitepages.com has an online directory which is available to anyone on Internet. The White page lists your name and address in its search results if your phone number is not under unlisted number. This information is not more serious than others mentioned above. Most info can be found on hard copy phone books. You can remove your information via an online form avaliable on their website. In the form, you fill in your name, city, and state, and give a reason to remove, in the drop down list, you can select General Privacy Concerns as the reason to remove. Of course, the most serious personal information can be found at its Sponsor links after your name.
(6) Peoplefinders.com is a People Search site actually associated with Intelius. The company helps people find family members, friends, classmates, military buddies, old flames and most anyone else in the United States. People Finders also provides more than 40 years worth of historical records. Peoplefinders.com require you to write a letter and signed by you with the following information in the letter, your name, address, former addresses going back up to 20 years. Refering to Peoplefinders.com private policy for details on opt-out process.
(7) Anywho.com, Address.com, Infospace.com, 99lists.com, Peoplelookup.com, Phonebook.com, thepublicrecords.com, Zabasearch.com, backgroundcheckgateway.com, etc are all linked Intelius on personal background information check. Most of these sites provide phone number and address search only, but background and personal information check is done through Intelius .
(8) If you concerned about name/address search at ZabaSearch (which shows your history of address changes), you can contact ZabaSearch to remove you information from their search engine. ZabaSearch has an option out feature right after you clicked your name.
Of course, this is just a partial list of the websites could contain your personal information, there are over 100 such websites, going through each website is almost impossible. It’s better to use some professional companies to help.