Have you ever searched for someone online and found that you could, for a small fee, purchase all of their personal information, including date of birth, current address, and telephone number with just a few clicks?
Have you ever Googled yourself and been unnerved by the volume of personal information out there?
Creepy, right? Anyone looking for you, at any time, can find your personal information online.
Why is this important to me (and should be to you)? Because I have kids. I have a blog. There is a part of my life that is very, very public. And I know many of you are in a similar situation. Blog or not, though, do you want people paying for information you wouldn’t share with them in the first place?
As we well know, there are people just about everywhere whose versions of reality may differ greatly from yours, and, to me, that’s downright scary. Also, solicited much? I can’t tell you how many times I registered with the national Do Not Call list. Unfortunately, I learned that Do Not Call actually means call repeatedly, early in the morning, on days you vainly hoped your children would sleep late, or call during dinner, after you’ve already politely declined the guy three times for the “free security system in exchange for placing a small sign in your yard”. Stop calling, buddy. We have ADT. My favorite, though, is when nobody calls. You know, the lazy telemarketer whose computer auto-dials your number but they don’t feel like talking? Or when “John” calls, thinking smugly that he’s perfected his American ‘accent’, asking for Caroline Studley (true story) over and over again until you scream so loudly at him for waking your children that he never calls back again?
I could go on about the phone as a major irritant all day. But I won’t. Because I’ve done that before.
After we moved, I took further steps to ensure the privacy of our family, including making sure our telephone number was unlisted, because sometimes when one moves, previous account preferences are not included in the new account (even when you asked and they told you they would be). Ask me how I know that. I also did a rather cursory search for myself, and found that several websites were selling my (previously private but accidentally made public – Thank you, Verizon, very much) personal information.
I hate to say this, too, but you can trust very few people in this world. Scammers will dig and hack and build ATM card readers and steal account numbers and assume your identity. I try not to think about it all a) because I still have a glimmer of hope in the human race and b) sometimes I feel like there’s no way to keep track of it all on one’s own.
That said, I’d like to introduce you to a company I learned about when looking for a way to guarantee that my family’s information would, this time, remain private. It’s called Safe Shepherd. Safe Shepherd, for free, will find your (and your family’s, which is a huge plus) information on sites that sell your information, such as Intelius, and MyLife.com, i.e., the “I have SEVEN people searching for me? (Excited shriek) SEVEN!?!” folk, and have it removed.
Safe Shepherd was recently recognized in Time Magazine’s Techland’s 8 Tools for the Online Privacy Paranoid, along with several other apps, programs, and services that help to identify and remove privacy threats. And it’s mind-numbingly simple.
The only thing you need to do after you register is enter your personal information. Safe Shepherd will search for all related records, provide them for your review, and then complete opt-out and record removal requests for any and all records you choose. For free. And, as an added benefit, all receipts and proof of processing those requests are emailed directly to you. For free.
Now, when I signed up, I opted for the Premium membership, which allows you to scan for new records anytime, communicate with their team personally (and I mean personally, as in they’ll email you, ask you how you’re doing, answer questions, and address any concerns you may have), and receive updates when new records have been found.
Included in my most recent update (last week) were listings of my new address (you know, the unlisted one), and a few records in my husband’s name. So I clicked “Remove Record” on each one and have already received notices that our information has been removed. They do all the legwork, which, for someone in my domestic situation, is invaluable. The process couldn’t be simpler.
I value this service so highly that I will be giving away a one-year Premium membership (valued at $65), and will be providing five additional readers with promotional codes to receive Premium memberships at 50% off ($32.50 for one year). Memberships can be upgraded, downgraded, or cancelled at any time.
All you need to do to enter is leave me a comment telling us how you help ensure your own privacy and/or the privacy of your family online, and, if you haven’t started yet, why safeguarding online privacy is important to you. Almost as simple as using Safe Shepherd.
Not sure? Head on over to Safe Shepherd and take it for a spin. The basic service is always free.
I’d like to thank Safe Shepherd for helping me realize my goal of online privacy for our family and for being kind enough to provide readers with the opportunity to experience a Premium membership for free. If you have any questions at all about Safe Shepherd from a member’s point of view, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
(Must provide valid email address to be eligible to win. Entries will be accepted until June 20, 2012 at 6PM ET. Winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries after 6PM on June 20, 2012, and will be notified via the email address provided. One reader will receive a free one-year premium membership and five (5) additional readers will receive a promotional code for Premium membership at 50% off. One entry per email address. For questions or additional information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)