Anyone that spends any time online especially on social media sites or gaming sites, most likely is on a list of data brokers. Many individuals are not even sure what data brokers are and some have never even heard the word. All that most people experience is a barrage of telemarketing phone calls, text messages, or emails that they do not remember signing up for. This is because the did NOT sign up. They are the victims of data brokers.
Some data brokers are just annoying, with repeated telemarketing calls from fake phone numbers, while others are downright malicious and will send viruses, spyware, and malware to pirate personal information for monetary gain. These viruses, spyware, and malware are contained in links that resemble a known website but lead to another spoofed site.
When the link is clicked the virus, spyware or malware does its dirty job and inserts itself into someone’s mobile device or computer, gaining access to all their personal information, and/or freezing the devices.
A phone number to “fix” the problem is provided.
This is followed up by a fake phone number to remove the problem. That phone number, however, also leads to the group of individuals committing these cybercrimes and they will ask for access to an individual’s computer or device. Once given that they have everything they need to steal the identity of the person and wrack up any charges they like anywhere. Legitimate data brokers who are just pesty gather their information from all public records and online forms and websites. Malicious data brokers gather their information through the criminal activities such as listed above and use malicious codes of all types for access. There are dozens of ways in which malicious data brokers gain access unlawfully to a person’s personal information.
Whether malicious or just “pesty” most individuals want to opt out from brokered lists.
There are privacy tools that can be used to do this and methodologies that can be used. First and foremost, individuals would do well to know exactly where their information exists and if anyone is either using their information or pretending to be them. Nuwber is a people search site that provides a huge database of USA citizens. On the site anyone can type in their own information for free and see immediately where their information is being displayed.
Knowing where to scrub information from sites is a step in the right direction.
Nuwber offers information and other types of services as well to assist in the process of scrubbing information or opting out of data brokerage lists. Individuals do have to know where they appear first to do this. It can be very eye-opening just to input your own name and address and see where your name appears. This is the main way in which data brokers glean information, from online listings about individuals. Especially if someone owns a business, or belongs to many online social media sites, the information is readily available. Once someone finds out where they are listed online, opting out from all problematic sites can be done. It is a process but not all that arduous and well worth the time to cut back on pesty telemarketing calls, spam messaging and email spam. It also will prevent data brokers that are malicious from sending imbedded malicious codes. Scrubbing of data is also known as purging.
The process of opting out sufficiently from online and offline listings is as follows:
- The simplest way is to contact the sites found that contain information such as name, address, and phone. Some data collectors will simply remove a person once asked, even with a simple phone call, or online form.
- Depending on where the data is located, it can be more difficult. Public records and other government sites might require proof of identification such as a photo of a driver’s license or other type of identification. The public records and government sites, if an individual has either worked for a company or has even traffic fines or other citations under their name, may require what the government calls an “expungement” process, where paperwork needs to be filed and the records are then expunged by the government agencies in charge of this. This is the most laborious type of opt out, and not really an opt out, but the records are then sealed to the eyes of others. Federal repositories are involved in the keeping of these types of records. They do serve a purpose, but if someone feels that they are being used by data brokers, it is worth the time to have the expungement done.
- Individuals can have themselves listed on the national do not call list. There is phone number and an online form for this at donotcall.gov. This is provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), so very safe and effective. Since complete removal usually never happens, blocking calls and other types of unwanted communications is a great relief to many. This service has been in effect for over a decade now and others are happy with the results. The DO NOT CALL registry will keep a list of your phone number and mobile devices, and telemarketers can access it before calling. Once an individual registers, telemarketers are prohibited from contact. However, charities and other organizations can still call, so it is not a perfect solution. The World Privacy Organization offers a top ten list of places where an individual can opt out in either one or two step processes.
- If an individual finds that they are appearing in hundreds if not thousands of online listings with all their personal information, it may be well worth it to purchase software or engage a company to purge the data from the Internet wherever they can. These products and companies exist and everyone that seeks this solution needs to assess the price and the amount of data that can be effectively removed before signing on. These software applications do exist and so do the companies but may require more than one sign up for different removals of data. They are worth checking out if the number of listings of private data online is significant. This usually occurs when others engage in survey filling. All information provided in surveys generally gets sold to data brokers.
The best defense against these unwanted listings is a good offense.
Do not share personal information online easily especially in advertising or other types of forms provided by companies. Data brokers make money from accruing information and selling it. The less information a consumer provides the less problems they have with their data being sold. Think twice before filling any forms out, or providing online information, especially personal information. Prevention after all, is the key to less infringement on any individuals’ right to privacy.