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Your Data, Up for Grabs

How fraudsters can easily learn all about you!


Did you know that anyone can purchase an on-line dossier on you?  Yes, they can for a small fee and a credit card.  The information that they receive is enough to get the ball rolling for identity theft.  The information given included the person’s birth date, past employers and addresses that could be used to apply for fraudulent credit.  It also included relatives’ names and ages which is useful for the so-called grandparents scam (in which fraudsters pretend to be grandchildren in distress) and other impostor schemes.  It also provided emails, phone numbers and other personal information that the typical person would not want scammers to know.


This is all publicly available and legal on people-search websites such as Spokeo, Instant Checkmate, Pipl, Intelius, Been Verified, PeekYou, PeopleFinders and PeopleSmart each of which gets millions of visitors a month.  With access ranging from $1 trial memberships to ongoing, $10-per-month subscriptions for unlimited searches, users can get access to scam-worthy details on pretty much whomever they want, with assurances of anonymity.


Are scammers using these sites?  It’s hard to prove, though anecdotal evidence suggests they are, according to Paul Stephens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.


How can you protect yourself?


Be proactive - Some search sites do let you opt out.  Get step-by-step instructions at  But prepare yourself!  Some sites require a photocopy of your driver’s license, and other hoop jumping.  Once you’re removed from the site your data may be reposted so it’s important to check these sites periodically.  For a fee, companies such as Abine, will do the legwork for you.


Check all your possibilities - Data on you may be filed under your first and last name.  But it may also be listed with your middle name.  Or with your middle initial.  Or with name misspellings.


Don’t help them - You can’t control some details about yourself, such as those pulled from public records, but you can withhold others by taking precautions.  Make sure you don’t complete product-warranty cards (you still have the warranty regardless), take part in surveys or enter contests.  Some data may be taken from social networks, so guard what you post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.


To educate yourself about Identity Theft and what you can do about it please read the featured article, 6 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft and watch our Identity Theft Protection video.


Source:  Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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