A few months ago, I saw a Facebook post that detailed how to get personal information off the site Spokeo.com. I didn’t realize my personal information was on Spokeo, but when I looked at the site, my mouth dropped open. Spokeo had my name, address, phone number, a satellite photo of my house, a map on how to get there, my occupation, my marital status, my relatives, my education history, how much I paid for my house, and my e-mail addresses, all available for a low fee to anyone who wanted them.
Thanks to the Facebook posting, I was able to quickly remove the personal information of everyone in my family, but then I wondered– If Spokeo had all that info on me, what other sites were making that same information available?
I decided to find out.
It turned out that two major sites, Spokeo.com and MyLife.com, both publish our personal information online, but there are a number of other sites that keep similar data on you as well, especially if you have a home-based business or have purchased a house. The easiest way to figure out where your personal information is publicly stored is to do a search that includes both “[your name]” and “[your street address].” That’s how I found about a half dozen sites that published that information.
Here’s how to remove your personal info from Spokeo:
1. First, search for your profile on Spokeo. When you get to the page that contains all your info, copy that URL.
2. Go to the Spokeo home page and scroll down to the very bottom. Click on “Privacy.”
3. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Privacy” page and click on “opt out form.”
4. Fill out that form and paste the URL from your profile. Voila! You’re off the site.
It’s harder to figure out how to delete your personal info from MyLife.com, but I’ve done the dirty work for you. Either call customer care at 1-888-704-1900 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would probably be helpful to include the URL to your profile in the e-mail as well. To the site’s credit, when I e-mailed and requested that our family’s personal information be removed, they responded very quickly and the information was taken down.
In addition, I found that even though we are unlisted in the white pages, several other phone number sites listed our name and number. To find out if this is the case for you, do a search for your telephone number and see which sites turn up with your information.
411.info was one site that listed our name and number. To remove it from the site, go here http://wpremove.411.info and follow the instructions. It’s a weird process (you have to call a number from your own number), but it works. Our information was removed after my phone call.
Other sites that might have your personal information:
I search for our address and phone number every month or two– New information sites pop up all the time and it’s best to be vigilant. So far, I’ve had no problems getting my information removed, once I figured out the process.
I did all of this work to remove our personal information from the web because of my husband’s job as a TV reporter — not because of the fact that I write stories on the Internet. I’ve honestly never had any problems with Internet “stalkers” or anything like that. My husband, on the other hand, routinely does stories on criminals and “bad guys,” and, well, you know. Better safe than sorry.
That said, literally two weeks after I gone through all of these sites and removed our info from them, a random man online began e-mailing me and texting me via e-mail several times a day, begging me for my phone number so that we could talk and “be friends.” He used every available online method to try to contact me and get my phone number. It was creepy, to say the least. Interesting, isn’t it, that I had JUST removed that information from the web!
I believe that if someone REALLY wants to get your personal information, they can, unfortunately. But why not make it as difficult for them as possible?
Got more tips or information you can add to the subject? Leave a comment and share!
Image via JanetMck/Flickr