In this age of technology, identity theft is an ever-growing concern. “Hackers” aren’t always hyper-intelligent computer nerds that work in dark environments, combing through back-end channels to obtain your personal information. Hackers are often normal people who realize the ease in which they can obtain private information. “Private” doesn’t mean what it used to. With the internet, you may have information out there that you never intended to be public. That is why it is important for you to be aware of ways to protect your identity. An effective means of protecting yourself is through people search engines.

What Are People Search Engines?

There are tons of people search engines on the market. These services help you find public records of another individual, or any information that is publically accessible on the internet. While many people use these services to monitor other people, what some would call “stalking,” or to maliciously falsify information about someone, the services can also be used to protect yourself against identity theft. By gaining awareness about your personal information on the internet, you can delete private information or correct false information. Examples of available services include PeopleFinders, Spokeo, Intelius, PeopleSmart, and Inteligator, among many more. Some are free and provide very basic information (name, birthday, primary phone number, address) while others charge a fee. The fee-driven programs generally obtain more complex information (criminal background records, address history, income and job title, etc.).

How to Protect Yourself

The first step is to find out the extent of your vulnerability. Use one of the people search services discussed in the previous section to conduct a search on yourself. The more effective programs ask for more than your name – this is to dig for as much information as possible and to ensure that no other “John Doe” returns as you. If you find untrue or disturbing information about yourself from the search, you can remove your information from the site by contacting the site directly and making a request. You can also invest in identity theft protection services if you feel inclined, which daily monitor your online information and protect it.

Once you have completed a thorough search of yourself using a people search engine, you must begin monitoring the information you put online. You often give out information without even realizing it – when you book travels, when you shop online, when you subscribe to emails and even when you update your social media profiles. If online organizations do not have policies in place to protect your information, then they could be selling your information to vendors or dishonest people. Or, if they do not use secure servers, then they could unknowingly be making it easy for hackers to obtain your information. Do not let yourself fall victim. Identity theft has severe consequences, such as unauthorized accounts, ruined credit and damaged reputations. Avoiding a stolen identity is well worth the small amount of money it takes to invest in effective people search services.

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