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It’s almost hard to remember what it was like when you didn’t know the answer to something or couldn’t remember the name of a song and had to just live with it. The Internet has made our lives infinitely more convenient…and our personal information much more public.
Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your privacy online, and AOL MyPrivacy is a tool that can help. This software scans the entire Internet (and it’s a huge place!) for every trace of your name, address, phone number, and other identifying information—and that includes your relatives.
Its ReputationDefender feature will permanently remove you from public databases, especially those mentions of you that can be found in the most popular search engines. If your information reappears on a hacked website, MyPrivacy will automatically delete it.
Try MyPrivacy free for 30 days*
What personal information about you is easy to find online?
It’s kind of scary how much any old Joe Schmo can find out about you just by typing your name into the search bar. Try it: You’ll easily find people finder sites that reveal your home address, phone number, date of birth, and more. And there are databases that people can pay to learn even more about you. And of course, there are your social media accounts that make you a constant target.
Here are the scariest things people can learn about you online:
All about the property you own
Housing records are public information, which is a great thing for potential buyers, but can be a scary thing for homeowners. These records contain information about how much you paid for your home and what improvements you made to it. They also contain your name, which is the only thing you can ask to be removed; everything else is legally open.
Depending on the state you live in, there are several ways to keep your property records private so they cannot be linked to your name. The first is to register your property through an LLC. Another is to make a formal privacy request to your mortgage company. If you are concerned about the privacy of your home property, it is best to consult an attorney to find out what solutions are available in your area.
Information about your work
Social media sites allow you to post information about your professional activities, and some of them are actually career networking sites. Here, anyone with an internet connection can see what company you work for, where your office is, etc. You always have the option to make these profiles private or limit the information in them.
However, keep in mind that your company may advertise for you on its own website. In this case, you should submit a privacy request. If you have your own company, it’s easier to hide your identity on a professional website if you want to.
All the intimate details of your divorce
Confidentiality in family court cases varies from state to state. Some are in the public domain and can be easily found and viewed online. Some states will allow you to seal your divorce records—perhaps one of the most personal and often painful experiences anyone can go through.
Consult a lawyer on how to do this if you want to hide family affairs from the neighbors.
Details of the legal process in which you participated
Under the First Amendment, many court cases and records are public (but there are exceptions, such as paternity and juvenile delinquency cases). This means that usually anyone can search your name and dig into the drama of a lawsuit you’ve been involved in, which is a very vulnerable thing indeed. Once upon a time, someone would have to actively search for a court record on you; now it’s just a few clicks.
In some cases, you may request that court records be sealed. As with a divorce, an attorney should be your advocate by helping you ask the judge to keep your case closed and off the Internet.
If you have filed for bankruptcy
Chapter 7 filings are public records by their very nature. Lack of privacy online can be damaging at such a difficult time in your life. Bankruptcy affects everything from your credit score to your ability to secure loans—and it stays on your list for seven years. This means that it can also be found online.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this. This takes time and patience, so consider this route carefully before filing for bankruptcy.
Details of your grandchildren’s lives
Among the personal information readily available online is perhaps the most valuable of all: information about your children and grandchildren, especially if they are literally children. According to statistics, children are 50 times more likely to have their identity stolen.
What can you do to prevent criminals from getting hold of your children’s personal information? Limit what you post about them online. A cute, beautiful photo album of your granddaughter’s first day in kindergarten, for example, can become a real treasure. If you must share, consider setting these albums to maximum privacy limits.
Your email address
This one seems pretty harmless compared to the others, right? Well, think again. “Your email address is actually a valuable commodity for hackers because it’s essentially a ’tile in the mosaic of your life,'” says Adam Levine, cybersecurity expert and founder of CyberScout. And that’s a big tile, because once a scammer associates your email address with your name, the rest of the puzzle can materialize, and that could include your social security number, driver’s license, and other means of identity theft.
When your email address hits the radar of scammers, it’s game on. In an attempt to learn your online passwords with a laser, they may delve into your personal information or even send out well-disguised phishing emails to trick you into revealing your passwords yourself. And if a hacker manages to hack into your real email account, they can access all of your linked accounts and even block you while they’re busy doing their damage.
Keep track of where your email address appears on the Internet (do a regular search) and request removal if possible.
Try MyPrivacy free for 30 days*