Monday, August 3, 2015

1 Thing to Do Today to Protect Your Online Privacy


When I appeared on Who Wants to be a Millionaire earlier this year, I immediately received a massive influx of new Facebook friend requests from random (mostly creepy) guys from across the country. I was momentarily surprised until I read a few Facebook messages from these new, would-be friends, congratulating me on my TV appearance (among other things). Now I know whenever my episode has re-aired - without fail, my Facebook blows up with all sorts of friend requests and messages (including some from some bitter strangers who apparently have nothing better to do than critique my performance!).

I knew that my full name and hometown would be displayed on the screen, but it was still a surprise to realize that some people would actually take the time to go to their computers, type in my full name, and reach out with unwanted communication. I shrugged it off, deleted the requests, and blocked any inappropriate users...and then I checked the mail one day. As in my actual, physical mailbox located at my home.

There was a handwritten envelope addressed to me from an address I didn't recognize. I was shocked to open it and find a very long, personal letter from someone who had seen me on the show and wanted to be my "best friend." It gave me chills to realize that I had been tracked down by a complete stranger so easily, and that anyone could show up at my front door with minimal effort.

After doing some digging, I realized that my home address (complete with exact apartment number) was listed on Whitepages, along with my address history, my approximate age, names of my family members, and more personal information. Luckily, I was moving to a new address shortly after receiving this letter but as a very private person (after all, I don't even use my full name on this blog!), I wanted to remedy this so I followed these quick, easy steps from Whitepages to remove my address from the public database. I shared this with my family and friends (who were equally clueless about this very private information being so readily available) and hope it helps you too:

1. Go to Whitepages using your computer and click on "Remove from Directory" located in the footer. If you already have an account, please log in and skip to step 4.

2. To create an account, you need to provide a valid email address

3. We’ll send you an email with a link to verify your email address. Click the “Verify my email” link provided.

4. Once you verify your email you will then be taken to the "Opt-out of Whitepages" screen where you copy and paste the URL to the exact listing you wish to have removed.

(Each page has its own unique web address (URL). This is how your computer locates the web page that you are trying to find. An example of a URL is: http://www.whitepages.com/name/John-Doe/Seattle-WA/6u3wkef. To find the URL go to the top of your browser and look for the web address for the page you are on. Copy that line and paste it in the removal field.)

5. After you have copied and pasted the URL to the exact listing you wish to have removed, you will be asked to verify the listing that you wish to remove.

6. You will have to also verify with the phone number that is listed on the listing in order to remove the information. If no phone number is present or you no longer have access to the phone number listed, please contact Customer Support.

How do you protect your privacy online?

23 comments :

  1. Soooo creepy!! Thanks for sharing!!

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  2. Ok, that is super creepy. Good thing you took the steps to protect yourself!
    -Hannah
    www.sweeterthanserenity.com

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  3. Thank you so much for this! I'm doing it right now! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  4. So crazy and so creepy. Thanks for sharing this. Protecting my privacy is very important to me.

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  5. This is crazy (and slightly creepy) information - thank you for the alert! I'll be taking care of this today.

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  6. Thank you for the information! That is so creepy and really makes you think. We've always tried to limit the information we put out there, especially on our blog. Sorry you had to go through that and hopefully it won't happen again! Winks and Eyerolls

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  7. I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE ON THAT SHOW (or I forgot!) but I'm doing this now!

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  8. Years ago, I knew addresses were available in the phone book but the rest of the information seems unnecessary. Under what circumstances would you ever want strangers to know those things about you? I'm going to check this out to remove my info but it seems these shouldn't exist in the first place.

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  9. Ahhh that is so creepy!!!!!!!!!!!! It is scary how much you can find out about people online. Our information is literally everywhere.

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  10. Holy crappers that is so scary! Thank you so much for these tips, and it's a great thing you recently moved ;-)

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  11. That is so scary! I'm going to do this too. The Internet is a scary place!

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  12. Done! I hate how easy it is for people to "find" anything they want anymore thanks to the internet. Great tip that I'm so glad you shared, girl!

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  13. Eeeekkkk...crazy!! I am doing this right now!! Thanks!! Have a great week!!

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  14. This just freaked me out pretty bad. I love the internet but sometimes I also hate it.

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  15. Omg, thank you!!! I appeared on a live news broadcast during a 2008 Presidential debate for no more than 2 minutes and had the same issue with an influx of Facebook friend requests. It's insane! I'm so glad you posted this!

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  16. that is flipping terrifying! thanks for sharing girl. i can't believe people are so creepy!

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  17. Thank you for sharing!! I will do this as well! People these days.....

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  18. People are so scary. Back in college I auditioned for Playboy as a joke (the test shoot you keep all your clothes on) and the press was there. Being a young idiot I chatted with them not realizing it'd go on record. At the time I was also planning my wedding and people not only tracked down my then fiance to tell him not to marry me but they also posted our wedding location, my address among other things. Luckily social wasn't as popular then but it was still such a scary experience. I can only imagine how magnified that is now! Thanks for sharing about White Pages! Doing that later!
    <3, Pamela
    Sequins & Sea Breezes

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  19. I sent you an e-mail about this yesterday. I'm totally freaked out about this and I'm always so scared of what's on the Internet about me that I'm unaware of! Also, I had no idea you were on Who Wants to be a Millionaire but that's awesome! xoxo

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  20. I can't get past the part where you were on who wants to be a millionaire - how awesome!! But this is totally scary and it's so crazy how there can be so many things out there that we are unaware of - I'm definitely doing this later and thank you SO much for sharing!!

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  21. It creeped me out so much when I heard your story, lady. Like, was so concerned for you - I'm proud of you for sharing your story to help others. Immediately following your steps to protect myself!
    We got a creepy call the other day from someone claiming to be Amazon and asking Ant if one of us was home.. we had not ordered anything and came home to no package. Definitely hits home more once you realize that it CAN happen to you. Excellent post!

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  22. While it's pretty cool that you were on the show...the other things that came with it...NOT SO MUCH. Holy crap...the world can be a scary place these days. Thank YOU for the tips, great post!

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B & M

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