You may not want strangers to find your address, personal email, or cell phone number.
But the information is out there on websites that allow anyone to access it for free.
Even if you Google your name and nothing comes up, you might think you’re in the clear, but think again.
We found two sites that reveal a wealth of information simply by typing in a name. People we shared these sites with were shocked.
“Yeah, that’s my phone number.”
“That’s my brother. Dude, that is crazy. That’s my previous address.”
“Oh, that’s my ex-wife. Ha!”
But how do these websites get your information, and what can you do to protect yourself?
“It can be a variety of sites, some are government sites that allow public information,” explained cybersecurity expert Chris Duque. “In the private sector, a lot of the vendors share our personal information that they gather from us when we interact with them in a business transaction.”
That’s right. All your online shopping could be how your information is getting out.
Duque says that’s why it’s important to thoroughly read a website’s privacy terms before setting up an account or making a purchase to know if and how your information will be shared.
“Are they going to sell it to their partner vendors and we’re going to get spam or information from other people wanting to sell things to us?” Duque said.
Unfortunately, those terms can be easily missed. When you sign up for an Amazon account, for example, tiny print links to its privacy terms. While they’re not spelled out right in front of you, by agreeing to create an account, you’re agreeing to the terms.
So what if you don’t like the terms, but still want to use the service? Duque says reach out to the company or website.
“Contact them directly (and say), ‘I want to do business with you, Amazon, but I don’t want you sharing my information with your partner associates,” he said. “You may be successful in some occasions, others you might not be ableto.”
Sites like FamilyTreeNow.com and TruePeopleSearch.com allow you to opt out and remove your information from their website. The change can take a few hours, even a day to kick in.
However, Duque warns just because your information isn’t on the site, it’s not gone for good.
“When I opt out of the website, the links to those databases are severed, but my information is still out there,” he said. “Another website may be able to again data mine that information.”