Whether you like it or not, your information is available publicly to everyone through online directories. Businesses and advertisers have the ability to easily find this information and then market their products to you. This means that you have never actually “opted-in” to receive these ads. Fortunately, there are ways for you to “opt-out” of widespread information sharing (see the list of more than 120 ways below).
The Top 4 Opt-Out Opportunities:
- www.OptOutPreScreen.com. Remove yourself from the marketing lists sold by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is not cost for this list.
- www.DMAchoice.org. This puts you on a Do Not Mail list for the Direct Marketing Association. The cost is $1, but it is well worth the instant trip down in your mail.
- White Pages. That’s right, your old-fashioned printed phone directory is the source for most of the online contact info databases. Remove your directory listing (you will likely have to the phone company every month to have your info NOT shared – I know, it’s asinine) or otherwise opt out.
- www.Spokeo.com. To opt out, read this blog post about [intlink id=”1752″ type=”post”]removing your info from Spokeo[/intlink]. This is one of the more utilized sites by identity thieves, stalkers and scammers.
There is a slower and more tedious process of opting out of online directories (i.e., you have to visit every one. Some (Spokeo.com) are more important than others (Whitepages.com) because of the information that they collect. Sites such as Spokeo.com can have as much information as your physical address and pictures of your home, while others may just house your phone number. These sites spend hours upon hours scouring public records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, and real estate purchases for this type of information.
Since most online directories typically offer a way to opt out of their listings you would think they would make it easy. Not so. They tend to hide this option deep within the site, as they don’t actually want you to leave. Luckily, The Privacy Rights Clearing House has done most of the legwork in their Comprehensive Opt Out List. I suggest starting with a few main sites, 123people.com, spokeo.com, etc. and continuously adding to it over time. Opt out of one a week if you like, and eventually your data will be less exposed. Protecting your privacy and identity is a layering process. It is easy for people to get overwhelmed, especially when it comes to online directories.
John Sileo speaks on information control, identity theft prevention and data breach avoidance. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more, contact him directly on 800.258.8076.