The Hidden Dangers of People Search Websites
In today’s digital age, our personal information is more readily available than ever. People search websites, which provide access to public records and other sources of personal data, are a double-edged sword. While these websites can be helpful in reconnecting with long-lost friends, they also pose a significant threat to our privacy. Let’s delve into the potential dangers of people search websites exposing your personal information and how you can protect yourself.
Who are these sites, and which are the most widely used?
The most frequented websites are free people-search networks, as there is no barrier, such as a long scan or payment required to run a search. These sites include BeenVerified, Spokeo, TruthFinder, Fast People Search, and others.
What information do these websites provide?
The information contained in people search websites can vary but typically includes:
- Basic contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses.
- Public records include birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, and criminal records.
- Employment history, education background, and professional licenses.
- Social media profiles and activity, including posts, comments, and likes.
- Property ownership records, including the estimated value of the property and any liens or mortgages.
- Automobiles, including VINs.
- Family members and associates, including names, ages, and relationships.
Who uses these websites?
- Real estate agents/investors – Have you ever had someone call you and ask about buying your house?
- Debt collectors – If you have unpaid debt, collections agencies often use these sites to get your number or the numbers of your relatives to get in touch with you.
- Identity thieves – ID theft is made easier than ever. With a simple search, thieves can find information often used in login verification, such as home addresses, school mascot names, and other highly personal information.
- Stalkers – Finding home addresses based on name, city, and state is easier than ever. All a stalker has to do is grab the city and state from your social profiles and run an address search to find your direct address. They can even overlay this with Zillow data to understand the layout of your home.
What can be done?
Fortunately, there are options for those concerned about their personal information being exposed on people search websites. If you have time, you can individually visit each website and review the verification process of removing your information from each site. Currently, there are 80+ websites, so this will take some time.
If you would rather have the opt-out process automated on your behalf, some companies specialize in handling this for you. Here are a few notable companies in this space:
- Dataseal: Covers over 80 websites and has fully automated their removal process leading to a high honorability rate amongst data brokers.
- Incogni: Save hundreds of hours with their automated personal information removal system.
- DeleteMe: This site is one of the older companies in the removal industry. They also are one of the more expensive options charging annually without a monthly option.
How to judge and compare data removal services
- Does your provider send emails to request removals, or have they automated their opt-out process? Many companies in the removal space are simply sending opt-out emails on your behalf. The honorability of email requests is sub-par at best.
- How many sites do you recognize, and how many actually apply to you? It’s great for a provider to have outstanding coverage, but if you aren’t a dentist, do you care if they send an opt-out request to CaliforniaDentists.org?
If you want to learn more or run a free privacy scan to see how much of your information is exposed here, you may want to check out our partner of choice DataSeal.
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