Advances in technology have made information accessibility easier than ever. This information may be unwanted, however, when it pertains to your privacy. Today, online data banks and information centers can easily retrieve addresses, telephone numbers and other individual statistics simply by accessing the right websites and/or records. Although it is nearly impossible to entirely eliminate yourself from all public records, you can take certain steps to reduce the amount of information that is available and restore some of your privacy.
Cancel your accounts on all blogs and social networking sites. These include resume and professional networking sites as well as online discussion forums. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, media research firms have the ability to access this information and sell it to clients. In turn, those clients are provided with your personal information, such as habits, preferences, friends' names, family members, previous employers and favorite vacation spots. Even if you use a pseudonym on these sites, data companies may still be able to discern your real name and thus locate your home address and phone number .
Learn those online directory services and information brokers that consumers can opt out of. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website provides a list of such data brokers with links to their opt-out websites, if applicable. Many of these are online people-search services that individuals or businesses use to location information on another person. Some of these allow consumers to partially or fully opt out of having their information available.
Open a post office box to receive all correspondence and bills. Provide your local post office with an official change of address form so mail is forwarded to this new box. Use this post office box number whenever possible, such as when subscribing to magazines, receiving a parcel or joining a new organization. This will help to remove your home address from many public record databases.
Change your telephone number to a new and unlisted number. Although an unlisted number does not prevent its availability to the public, it may help to reduce distribution, particularly with a new number that a previous customer did not own. You can also block caller identification capabilities when you make phone calls to businesses or private residences. These actions can help prevent your phone number from being widely circulated in public databases.
Research which records are private and which are not, according to your state laws. Common examples of public records include death certificates, property transactions, arrest records, court proceedings and criminal records. This information cannot be changed, but knowing which records are private versus public can help you determine when complaints need to be filed against information companies. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website provides a number of links for information on both government and public records.
Refuse to provide personal information to companies on written applications, over the telephone or in person. A number of government agencies, financial institutions, banks and credit card companies share and sell such information with other parties.
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