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The internet can be a dangerous place for those less tech-savvy. Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo seem perfect while you’re looking for an answer, however, what happens when your personal information is readily available?
In this article, we will uncover why your personal information is being found online. We also discuss what methods you can start implementing every day to lessen the chances your personal or private information will be at risk.
Everything from your contact information, financial information/records, photos as well as anything else you have posted online throughout your life. Our job here at NetReputation is to remove any negative listings or mentions or your name online.
It is always better to know what is online about you before it falls into the wrong hands. Now let’s dive into it. Here are some tips on how to remove personal information from the internet.
Why is Personal Information Online?
There are various databases online that house your personal and private information. When hackers and cyber thieves gain access to your information you may experience serious trouble or setbacks not only in your professional life but your personal one as well.
So what constitutes “personal information” anyways? Well, here are some examples of personal information that we remove online each and every day.
- Contact information
- Financial Records & Banking Credentials
- Online profile usernames & passwords (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
- Insurance Policy Information
- Medical Record History
- Identification cards, social security numbers, as well as your tax ID number.
There are hundreds of cyber attacks each and every day. Here are the most common examples of how thieves gain access to your personal information.
This typically happens when an unauthorized user hacks into a secure database in order to steal and distribute private information. This is normally referred to as the “dark web” where individuals can buy, sell, and even auction off personal information to the highest bidder.
For a majority of these cards, the type of information sold on average are passports, ID cards, social security numbers, medical and financial records. In recent months there has been a trend in phishing scams to gain access to more accounts within a company such as email addresses and passwords.
Unsecured Data Brokers
The internet is home to roughly 50 different data aggregate websites. At NetReputation, we refer to these websites as third-party background reporting databases. Websites such as BeenVerified, InstantCheckmate, Spokeo, Radaris along with with dozens more house your personal information.
The worst part is that since these files are public knowledge, anyone can pay for a subscription and view your records within a few clicks. In 2019, anyone with $10 and an internet connection can find out where you live. If that sentence alone does not scare you, we don’t know what else will.
Social Media & Owned Content
Social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter may seem like a harmless place to hang out. However, if you operate your profile without any privacy settings you could literally be handing your personal information over to cyber thieves.
There are many “fun” features on social media such as geotagging that will show other users the exact location you are in. Other social platforms such as Snapchat may access your location 24/7. Allowing your “friends” to view your location whenever they please.
Social media can also give traces to your security answers. For example, let’s say you have a Facebook or Instagram and you are constantly uploading photos of your puppy. For most this may seem innocent. However, for hackers, they may see the name of the puppy and assume it could be one of your passwords or security answers to reset your password. The same goes for your birthday if you keep your birthday public on your profile it may do more harm than good.
Bad Internet Habits
Internet providers, as well as many other companies, use what is called “cookies” to track your web browsing history. Usually using this information to create targeted advertisements it allows the company to see what that individual is interested in. Also, by using cookies (if you are a business) you can then retarget those users in the future.
In recent years we have had several clients who were scammed and blackmailed after another party gained access to their search history and threatened to expose the person if they did not pay. Remember, the internet can be an extremely dangerous tool to use if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure that you research or ask a friend because doing anything online you are unfamiliar with.
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Removing Your Personal Information From the Internet
When it comes to removing your personal information from the internet there are a few things you should keep in mind. First off, when working to alter anything online please remember it does not take one-day. Removing content from the internet (unless you control it) can take in upwards of a year to complete. It is important that you remain patient and consistent with your efforts until you see results.
However, keep this caveat in mind: Some things may be impossible to remove online. For example, let’s say you were arrested, you may find yourself on dozens of mugshot publication websites and have them all removed. The downside here is that typically the county court office
Request for Information Opt-outs
If you want to work on removing yourself from any website you will have to start by looking for an “opt-out” form or a contact email in order to make your removal request. If you haven’t already found what websites you are on, start on websites such as WhitePages or Spokeo. Once you locate your records you can revisit Google and search for “[Name of Website] opt-out”.
The removal process will differ depending on what website you are taking to remove your information from. Each database is owned by different entities so make sure you do not stop when you successfully remove one article or profile. NetReputation’s comprehensive background check removal solution will remove your personal information from over 50 sites in roughly one month.
Remove Unwanted Controlled Content
When it comes to deleting content online, always start with what you control first. This means any on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even a custom blog website. If you see anything embarrassing that you have the power to delete you must do so immediately.
Start by running a social media audit on yourself. Create a spreadsheet (Google Sheets is free) and begin to list out all of the social media profiles you have. After you have completed this step start going through all of your photos, status, and interactions with others. Untag yourself and delete anything negative. The general rule of thumb is if you don’t want your mother it see it, delete it.
Delete Unused Applications on Your Cell Phone
This may seem like a no brainer, however, I use to do this all the time. People store useless apps on their phone that they haven’t used in months. Claiming, “I may want to use it again in the future” is a popular response. Nonetheless, leaving these apps installed on your phone is doing more bad than good.
Most mobile applications nowadays request access to personal things such as your location, camera, microphone, contact list, and sometimes all of your files. You may not use the application anymore however they still have access to your phone. So after reading this article revisit your apps and delete anything you no longer use. You can always re-download the app later if need be.
Use Incognito Functions & “Do-Not-Track” Features
As you may already know, the internet uses memory functions known as a cache to improve the experience for each user. This essentially means that if you have repeatedly clicked on something on Google, repeatedly researched a topic or clicked on a link in the past, Google will do its best to rank that specific website higher. So what does this mean? This means that everyone’s Google results are personalized to how they normally browse the internet.
Using an Incognito window a VPN can help mask your identity online. By utilizing an Incognito browser you are bypassing any cache functions, seeing nothing but raw universal search rankings. On the other hand, if using a VPN, this masked your current IP address. By using encryption, you can give off the appearance that you are in another part of the world.
**VPNs can be extremely helpful while traveling, especially abroad. For instance, in China, you cannot listen to Spotify however if you log into a VPN and change your IP address to reflect one from The United States you will be free to browse Spotify without any barriers.
Notify Search Engines of Dead Pages
If and when you successfully remove content online about yourself. Whether it is controlled or removed from a third-party there is still one action left for you to do. Every search engine, whether it be Google, Bing, or Yahoo allowed you to contact their Support Team to notify them of any alterations amongst the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Once you notify Google or any other search engine all you can do is wait. Use this free time to find another website to remove. On average it takes about one week for Google to update its results to reflect the removal or edits of any website.
Conclusion: How to Remove Personal Information from the Internet
So, at the end of the day, it all comes down to this. Learning how to remove personal information from the internet will not only save you time and stress but also money. Here at NetReputation, we have been working with both businesses and individuals to ensure their online reputation is nothing but positive.
Take advantage of our FREE REPUTATION CONSULTATION today to see where you can improve yourself online. What do you have to lose? To get started now please complete the form below and one of our knowledgable reputation specialists will reach out to you as soon as possible.