Monday, January 23, 2012

Stalkers, Identity Thieves, and Spokeo

We interrupt this blog to share with you a very important message.  Please read through its entirety and follow the instructions closely.  

Late last night, I was sitting in my bed with my computer and phone.  I was syncing my contacts, updating things, and just trying to get organized.  As I was looking for some information on a friend of mine, I decided to google her name.

I typed it in, hit the search button, and saw her name pop up .  I clicked on the web page and was very annoyed.  The particular site that I had stumbled upon is a stalkers dream.  An identity thief's heaven.  It had so much more information than should be allowed to be compiled and made public for a few bucks.

I typed my name into the site, hesitated a moment, and then hit enter.

The results were disgusting.

When I say I nearly stopped breathing, I am not being dramatic.  When I tell you my pulse quickened and I felt cold all over, I am not being melodramatic.  Even now, just thinking about it, I feel extremely anxious.

My address was on there.  All but the house number.  But there was a picture of my house, and a map showing exactly where it was situated.  The length of time we have owned the house was there.  The fact that we have children was there.  The amount of bedrooms, bathrooms, and doors was on the web page.  Okay, I am being a little dramatic now.  It did not list my doors.  But it probably could have.  Maybe it did if I had paid.  I don't know.  I do know that the worth of our house was listed.  My relatives were listed.  Part of my email was listed.  My spouse was listed as my spouse.  Part of Jeffrey's phone number was on there.  It had my birthday... and if I had paid a measly $5 a month, I could have unlimited access to so much more information, for anyone I could possibly think of.

I got sucked into the web page, seeing exactly how much info it had, and who it had it on.

After spending a good hour or two disgusted, horrified and enthralled, I put the computer away, and decided to go to bed.

Except sleep would not come.

I begged it to, but worry had turned into fear.

Every time I heard a noise over the baby monitor I remembered that Elizabeth Smart had been taken from her own bed and I worried about my children.  I know it was unjustified, but it was the middle of the night, and my mind was trying to recover from a nasty shock.  All night long, I lay there, worrying about all the people who could just type in a few words, and then get all the information they could ever need to ruin me and my family.  They could hurt my children.  My children were not safe.  That thought rolled around and around in my head.  My children were not safe, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I did not sleep last night.

Not a wink.

I was too worried.  How on earth could they have gotten information like people's hobbies?  How on earth could they have compiled so much?  

I thought about making my blog private.  I have never thought about that before.  I don't like when blogs are private because they do not show up in my reader, and so I forget to check them.  I don't like having to wait and sign in.  I like the ease and convenience of meeting new people.  Let's be honest.  I most likely have only pre-known five people who read my blog who are not related to me.

I thought about changing names on my blog.  I am still thinking about that.  Very seriously.  Leaning more towards yes on that one.

I have had a very weird day, today.

But that always happens when the brain is over tired.

While talking to Keith's preschool teacher, she mentioned I looked worried.  I began to tell her about the website I found, and I could feel my heart rate increase.  I could feel the blood pounding in my ears as I grew angrier and angrier.  She was aghast as well.

Finally, about an hour ago, I learned how to take my name off their site.

I encourage all to do so.

It is called Spokeo.  Search for yourself and be disgusted. Search for long lost friends, old boyfriends or crushes, or even that one person who stole your hat fifteen years ago.  They are all on there.  Once you have  overcome the temptation to peek into other people's lives,  copy the link for the page with your info on it. Then, go to the very bottom of the page where tiny grey letters are inconspicuously hiding and click on Privacy.  There, you can put your name's link in a box, give them your email address (they already have it, so I figured it wasn't giving them more info), and then type in the word verification.  Go to your email, click on the link they sent you, and it will tell you that you have been removed.  Search for your name again, and feel some semblance of peace and privacy being restored to your life.

They claim that "Spokeo aggregates publicly available information from third party sources. Therefore, removing a listing from our directory will not remove your information from its original source and therefore your information might still appear on other directory sites."  


Be that as it may, I do feel much better about not having it right out there.

Please.  Do yourself and your family a favor.  Remove yourself from probable situations caused by Spokeo and other such directory sites.  And if you know of any others, please let me know so I can get my information off those as well.

Just click on any of the many places I have linked to take you there.  I believe this is very important so I made it very easy.  No one wants to worry about the safety of their children, or their children's identity.

"Git 'er dun."

...Now we return you to your regularly scheduled blog post...

7 comments:

Terra said...

very good advice!!!

Confessions of a PTO Mom said...

Sometimes I can't decide if it's good or bad some of the information that you can find on there. Some of it is a bragging right, so to speak. But having recently been a victim of Debit Card Fraud, where some nice person 1,000 miles away from where we lived stole over $3,000 of our hard earned money and caused many many checks and payments to bounce and be returned, I think I may be siding with you...

Chantel said...

At least it's not totally accurate. It has me in my mid '50's with a phone number I've never had. Our new house is not on there yet but our Ogden house is.

Myya said...

I've done this before & had the same exact reaction as you did. My first thought was that I share too much on my blog. Then I was like you know what info is out there somewhere & if someone is determined enough to find it they will. Scary but true. I Definitely have a love/hate thing going on for the world wide web. Uggghhh!

Lara said...

My info on that site is ridiculously wrong...well, it's like they pieced together the address out of three of my former addresses. Anyway. I'd seen it before, and I guess I don't worry about it all that much.

The internet is a big place, and I don't think many people are going to come looking for me to do me harm. However, I recognize that I might be very naive.

I'm glad you got your name off. Don't go private, though. K? Like you I just stop reading because I can't remember...

Em said...

This is why I can't google anything anymore bc then I can't sleep at night and I SO enjoy my sleep at night:) I hope you get your sleep back. And just evoke neurotic about locking doors and triple checking them. That's what I do:)

Lisa said...

I hate that site. I ran into it a while ago but never could figure out how to take myself off. Thanks for the info!!! :)