Are Your Public Records Online? Here’s how to Remove Them.
As young children, we all grow up with a preconceived idea of what life would be like when we become adults. It's no surprise, considering that we were influenced by the books we read and the movies we were exposed to. Cinderella and Snow White, for example, had happy endings where the heroine married royalty and they both lived happily ever after. There were many other stories where the happy couple rode off into the sunset, often on a white horse. Of course, the reality is that not everyone gets to marry their dream prince or ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
As adults, we marry but may end up with a divorce. Our businesses might not succeed as we planned, and we end up filing for bankruptcy. If we end up in financial trouble, someone could put a lien on our property. And unfortunately, some people end up involved in criminal activity that sends them to prison, along with a criminal record. Negative things do happen, but one thing is clear - from marriage to divorce, from bankruptcy to criminal records, we don't want anyone to know about our personal history or our personal information. The problem is, if your public records are published online, absolutely nothing is shielded from the public view. So our desire to keep our private business private is impossible to fulfill, and everyone will be privy to our personal background and information. And it's not only that your information will be available for everyone to see, but it can also lead to bigger problems like fraud and identity theft. That's why it's imperative to remove public records from public view as quickly as possible.
Before we discuss how to remove public records, it's important to know what public records actually are. There are basically two kinds: personal public records about people, and public records that relate to government actions. The government records could be federal, state or municipal - anything from a Congressional record about a national budget to a local city council meeting.
Personal public records about people could be birth and death certificates, marriage and divorce records, credit reports that include bankruptcies and other financial information, criminal records along with many others. They all contain personal information and data that can lead a cyber thief to more and more information about a person, until they have enough personal data to commit fraud or some type of identity theft. It's a huge problem, and it puts the victim in financial and legal jeopardy.
Years ago, all public records were kept in ledgers and filing cabinets, often taking up many warehouses filled with boxes and boxes of current and prior records. Today, things have changed - and they're now digitized and available online, making it easier for anyone to search and view. Of course, that includes cybercriminals, so while everyone was modernizing the public records system, they made it easier for cybercrooks to get their hands on valuable personal information about a person that they use to commit illegal activities.
In addition to websites that publish all types of records, from financial to criminal, there are also data brokers, or people-search sites, who purchase this data and then sell it to anyone willing to pay their price. The people-search sites like Intelius and US Search have volumes of unauthorized private information that they sell, and that's a huge problem. First, they'll sell it to anyone who has the funds to purchase it, and second - they don't care about the accuracy of their information, so the records they publish are often filled with inaccurate data. They could even mix your information up with someone who has a similar name, so when you apply for a loan or a job, a search of your name may show you have a criminal history, even though you've never been in any trouble in the past.
Because of the danger of having your info on people-search sites, you need to delete that information first. There are more than 100 of these sites, and you'll have to check each individually. You can do this manually, but it will take a lot of effort. You can also hire a service to do it for you. Either way, it's absolutely important to get it done.
Other public records, like criminal records, can't be easily removed. What you can do is try to expunge your records or have them sealed - and then you can ask to have them deleted. It's the same issue with bankruptcies and liens - credit bureaus will keep bankruptcy information for up to 10 years, and liens can only be removed when you pay them - in full. It's good to do that, in order to have a clean financial record for loans and job applications.
One additional strategy is masking, which helps to prevent sensitive information from being seen by everyone. First, get a P.O. Box from the Post Office and have all of your mail sent to it instead of using your home address. If you happen to rent, move to a new address once a year. That way, your mail that's not going to your P.O. Box will be delivered to your last address instead of your new one. And don't share your phone number with anyone except family and trusted friends.