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How to Remove Yourself from People-Finder Sites

A woman looking at her personal information online

Most of us Google ourselves every now and then to see what comes up. You’ll probably see your social media profiles, maybe a personal website if you have one, or other people who have the same name as you. Looking yourself up can be fun — until you notice one of those people search websites has a lot of information about you.

When your name, address, phone number, place of employment, date of birth, or other personally identifiable details are found on these data broker sites, it can lead hackers and cybercriminals right to you. Fortunately, you can remove yourself from people-finder sites if you don’t want your information to be public.

A man looking furious about what he saw on his computer screen

What are people search sites?

People search sites are data brokers. They are websites that collect and sell personal information about individuals. These sites, also known as people finder sites or people look up sites, get their data from a variety of sources:

  • Buying from other data brokers
  • Searching through social media profiles
  • Compiling data from federal, state, and local government public records
  • Scraping online forums

Another pretty sneaky way that these sites get your info is through other companies and online services. When you sign up for an online account on a website, and you agree to the privacy policy, you’re often agreeing to have your information shared with  “third parties.” Those third parties are often data brokers who collect and sell your info.

Are people search sites free?

Some data broker sites are free to use, such as Whitepages.com or BeenVerified. Others require users to pay a fee or subscription in order to look up names and information in their databases. The worst of these data broker sites ask you to pay to have your information removed.

How do people search sites have my information?

People search sites use sources like public records, social media, online forums, other data brokers, and third-party data agreements to build a profile of someone. Depending on where they get their info, these sites could have any of the following about you:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Family members (and their names)
  • Social media profiles
  • Education levels
  • Property records
  • Financial records
  • Phone numbers
  • Police records
  • Employment information

Before you ask, yes, these people search sites are legal. Data brokers aren’t very regulated, so they can both collect and sell your information as long as it’s publicly available. Or as long as you agree to share your info — like if you sign a privacy policy or terms of service that allows it.

How do I remove myself from people-finder sites?

Each people-finder site should have a process for getting your information removed. Typically, you have to submit a request to have it taken down.

Let’s go over the general steps for removing yourself from a people search site.

  1. Find your information on the site. You can usually figure out which data brokers have info on you by searching your name on Google. You could also try searching your address, phone number, or other personal information about yourself.
  2. Opt out of the site. When you visit the site that has your information, you should see an option or button somewhere that says something like “Opt out,” or “This is me,” or “do not sell my personal information.” Select this option and follow the instructions to have your information removed. You may have to verify your email address first.

Many sites will require you to find your profile, which could take quite a bit of searching if you have a common name. Take advantage of the site’s filters to try and narrow the results down until you find a profile that matches you.

This helpful guide from USA Today has instructions for removing your information from specific people search websites such as Intelius, MyLife, Spokeo, and more.

A sign that says “Do Not Enter”

How do I block my name from being searched?

Why stop at having your information removed from data broker sites? Why not block your name being searched altogether? Ok, so you can’t stop people from typing your name into Google and looking you up. But you do have some control over the results that show up when they do search for you.

Apart from removing your data from people finder sites, there are few other things you can do to keep your name out of search engine results:

  • Make your social media accounts private. If your social accounts are public, they’re fair game for Google, Bing, and other search engines. Unless you want your social media profiles to be found for some reason — maybe they’re related to your business or you’re an influencer — always make your social media accounts private. Also, put as little information as possible about yourself in your social media profile. Don’t add your date of birth, workplace, school you attended, or any other personal details. Of course, the most effective way to secure social media accounts and prevent them from showing up in search is to just delete the accounts.
  • Delete old posts, comments, and reviews. Once something goes on the internet, it’s out there forever. So those reviews you left of that coffee shop that closed down five years ago are still visible, somewhere. Search for these things on Google and once you find them, find a way to remove them. Also, search in a private browser or in incognito mode to get more accurate results.
  • Contact the search engine. If sensitive information of yours, like a Social Security number, is showing up in search engine results, you should contact Google or Bing to take it down. You can send a legal takedown request to Google. This tool is only for sensitive, personally identifiable information. They’ll ignore your request if you want to take down a critical article about you or an unsavory photo.
  • Delete online shopping accounts. Many ecommerce sites make their users’ accounts public. By default, Amazon makes your wish lists public, so anyone can see them. If there’s no way to make your accounts on ecommerce sites private, consider deleting them.
  • Delete unused email accounts. Any old email accounts just floating around is just more data for potential hackers to use against you. It could also be problematic for the accounts you opened using that email address if someone finds a way to access it. If you can still get into an old email account and you’re not using it, just delete it.
  • Request to remove outdated search results. You might come across an old photo or information about you that shows up in search results but has been modified or updated on the actual website. If this is the case, you can ask Google to remove these results from search results by submitting a request.

Can you remove yourself from public records?

Information such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other legal acts are part of the public record. These days, public records are easily available online. While you can’t erase yourself from official public records maintained by local, state, and federal governments, you can remove your information from people-finder sites.

After all, most of these people search sites use public records to create a profile about you. If they’re not affiliated with a government entity, you should be able to request to take them down.

Prevention is the best privacy tool

Now that you know how these sites get a hold of your information and how you can get it taken down, there’s nothing stopping you from retaking your privacy. Once you do manage to get yourself removed from these sites, do an audit of your online accounts and social media profiles to see how easily people can find you.

Then, take down as much of your personal info as you can. The best way to combat data brokers is to simply not share as much personal info online. If you need some tips, you can read about seven ways to shore up your social media privacy.

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