How to lower your Internet visibility for better ID protection: Internet Scambusters #890
Can you delete yourself from the Internet and increase your online privacy to strengthen your ID protection?
Yes. But it can be a long-winded process -- or you can pay someone else to do it.
But you can start by following our guidelines on how to go about it in this week's issue.
Let's get started...
ID Protection: How to Hide Yourself on the Internet
If you're like most people, you didn't realize how vulnerable you were to identity theft and how important ID protection was until it was a bit too late.
Usually, you found out when you became a victim of things like big-company data breaches, stolen sign-ons and passwords from phishing attacks, or hackers taking over your email or social media accounts.
Then you wished you'd been more careful, less generous with sharing information, and more obedient to the tips from Internet security advisers like Scambusters.
And you wished you'd adopted a cloak of anonymity early enough to stop people identifying and targeting you in the first place.
You can't turn back the clock. You can't lock the stable door after the horse has bolted. But, there are still actions you can take to backpedal somewhat and protect your identity as we go forward in a new decade.
Here at Scambusters, we set up our own identity theft protection center more than 10 years ago, and today there are several others with similar offerings. But the world of identity theft spins very fast.
Last time we wrote purely on the topic of ID protection we were focused on the steps you can take to safeguard yourself (see Tools and Tips for Your Identity Theft Protection). That was almost five years ago, and we've added lots more tips since then.
But can you take action to recover some of your Internet privacy and anonymity, or is it too late?
Well, a good start is to do that thing you've always meant to do: having a different, tough-to-guess password for every website, probably by using a password manager.
That way, you immediately remove the risk that crooks who steal your password will be able to use it on other sites.
And you can remove all identifying information and photos from social media sites and make sure you have strong privacy settings to prevent unwanted intrusion. While they won't necessarily allow anonymity, most sites have settings that will prevent your name from being found in a public search.
But, there's more, much more.
In addition to the two just listed, here are 5 more actions you can take today to increase your privacy and hide or disguise your identity.
1. Remove your real name from email accounts. If your name is John Doe, you can be sure spammers will already have tried firstname.lastname@example.org.
But you can set up new anonymous accounts and notify everyone who needs to know, before closing and deleting those with your real name. It's tedious, but it only has to be done once and no one will be able to guess your email address in the future.
2. Close and delete online accounts with organizations you no longer use. That way, you'll reduce the risk of personal data being stolen in a hack attack, as well as the chance of some less scrupulous organization selling your details to marketing data brokers.
3. Check the privacy policies of sites you do use or plan on using and steer away from those that admit they share your information with others. That applies even if they insist they only share info with carefully selected partners. That's often a sham.
4. Delete yourself from the Internet. This is not easy. But it's something that you can do over a period of time. There are also companies who offer to do this for you -- for a fee. Some offer a pay-by-results service.
We can't recommend any particular service provider but a search on the term "delete me from the Internet" will turn up enough names for you to research and check out their reputation.
You can also read this new article on the tech site ZDnet -- 6 Ways to Delete Yourself From the Internet. It suggests six actions you can take to remove yourself from the web.
The organization also explains how to fully delete yourself from Facebook here: How to Delete Your Facebook Account Once and for All.
If you want to get yourself removed from Google searches and data collection, the Internet giant doesn't make it obvious or easy -- why should they? But you can start here: https://support.google.com/websearch/troubleshooter/3111061?hl=en
And there are plenty of other organizations who offer help. For example, check out Search Engine Land's How To Remove Your Personal Information From Google article.
5. Adopt a "stage name." Although many organizations won't permit you to be anonymous, they will allow you to have a public username as long as they privately really know who you are.
Of course, you can do all these things and still find that your identity leaks out somehow on the Internet.
You have to remain vigilant. A good safeguard is to regularly do a search on your own name to see what it turns up. You can even set up a Google news alert based on your name to receive notifications if your name pops up.
You're likely out of luck if you have a common name, unless you add other words to your new alert request, like "John Doe crocodile wrestler"! There's probably only one of those. To set up an alert, go here: https://www.google.com/alerts
Some people don't care about ID protection, or they think there's nothing they can do to be secure. If you're one of the former, that's your choice. But if you're among the latter, now you know that's not true.
Alert of the Week
Speaking of passwords, as we just were, it's hard to believe that so many people still are using easy-to-guess codes.
According to the just-published Annual Worst Passwords List, the number sequence "123456" has once again topped the charts as it has for many years.
A lot of the other familiar "baddies" were there -- 111111, qwerty and so on. But there were some new entries like "1q2w3e4r".
See the full list at The Top 50 Worst Passwords of 2019. And if you're one of the offenders, please, please plan a switch to a password manager as one of your 2020 resolutions.
Time to close today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!