NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — If you’ve never Googled yourself, try it. You might be surprised to find out just how much of your personal information pops up.
It’s legal for these companies to collect your personal info from public records and then post it online, even though it can be creepy and potentially dangerous. But there are ways to regain control of your identity.
"Wow. This is unreal. How do they know all this stuff?" said Konstantinos Sofos. He was shocked after finding out how much of his personal information is available online. "It’s a little scary and just unnerving to know that my whole life history is online," Sofos said.
Sofos says he didn’t intentionally upload any of that information, so how did it get there?
Sites like BeenVerified, FastPeopleSearch, and PeopleFinders are part of the vast data broker industry that collects information about people or companies and then sells it for things like advertising.
"A lot of people don’t even realize that there’s tons of information about them online," said Yael Grauer, Consumer Reports tech editor.
Grauer investigates online data collection and privacy.
"These companies don’t tell you they’re putting up your information," Grauer said.
That has the potential to be risky, giving employers, online stalkers, or even identity thieves access to your personal information — without you ever knowing it — things like your current and former addresses, phone number and email — and also the names of your relatives, even arrest records.
So how can you regain control of your information? You can start by checking out some well-known data broker sites for your personal information.
Some sites may require a copy of your license or ID to delete your data. Before sending it, cross out any excess info that might be on there — like your license number or Social Security number.
If you’d rather let someone else do the work, Consumer Reports said sites like DeleteMe, Kanary or OneRep charge around $100 a year to remove your info from a number of sites.
If you choose to do the work yourself, you should make a list of sites you’ve opted out of. That’s because you’ll need to check back periodically to make sure your information has not reappeared.