The Internet Sites Used by Identity Thieves to Ruin Your Life!
Recently, I learned a hard lesson. I’d heard plenty about identity theft, internet crime, and how my personal information was likely somewhere on the internet. I had never been the victim of identity theft, use pretty good passwords, and feel that I’m a pretty good judge of scammers, so I figured that I was safe. Unfortunately, that was not the case by any stretch.
Last year, I decided to refinance my mortgage. The rates made sense, and with a near perfect credit score, it didn’t seem like it would be a problem. That’s when my life turned upside down. I came to discover that someone had taken out a bunch of personal payday loans on my account, opened credit cards, and generally spent their money as if it wasn’t theirs (shocker, I know). Since becoming aware that I’m a victim of identity theft, it has been an absolute nightmare to get my credit and general financial life back together. I’ve filled out form after form, waited on hold, contacted authorities, and done everything I can to fix the situation. Unfortunately, my story is not one that is uncommon.
The one positive thing that has happened since this episode, is that I have become much more aware of how I use the internet, and how to protect myself against identity theft. There are a number of different things that you need to do to protect yourself from identity theft, like changing your passwords, shredding bank statements, and being careful with the emails you open. These all seem fairly obvious, but not doing these things is just irresponsible.
One thing that I was not previously aware of was that there are a new type of “background check” websites that will make available all of your information needed to steal your information for as little as $20. This blew my mind. Entering “online background check” into Google returned a ton of results for these websites. The biggest one seemed to be www.beenverified.com, so that’s what I chose to search for myself in. When I typed in my name I was stunned. Some of the personal things in my “online report” were pretty terrifying, including:
- My current cell phone number and three previous numbers
- My current home address and pretty much everywhere I had lived in the last 10 years
- My photograph from a social media site (which is set to private)
- Information about my divorce from 10 years ago
- The bankruptcy which caused my divorce from 10 years ago
- Information about an embarrassing arrest from college (which was incorrect)
- My current employer and info on several previous jobs
- All of my social media profiles and email addresses
- A long list of people associated with me, including all of my family members
- Information about my nursing license
This horrified me. How could all of this personal, private data like my divorce be so easy to find online? I looked into it, asked a lawyer friend of mine about it, and unfortunately these websites are totally legal. With a little more online research, I realized that there are a ton of these sites, and they all pretty much provide the same information for the same price. I’m no longer very surprised that my identity was stolen. It doesn’t seem terribly difficult to impersonate me and get a credit card if you have all of this information!
My entire experience with identity theft has been terrible. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot, and I don’t think (really hope) that this will happen again. One inexpensive tool that I’ve found to be very helpful in removing my information from the internet is called Online Privacy Solutions. I don’t know or care how they removed me from these shady online background sites, but for about $150 it seems like money well spent. They claim to also monitor my online profile going forward, so I’m hopeful all of my information stays of the internet.
There is a long list of things that I’ve done to get ownership of my identity back, and there are a lot of resources online, that really helped me out. It’s a multibillion dollar industry, and identity thieves can be pretty smart with their schemes. You can read thousands of stories about this stuff. I wrote this post because I wanted to bring to let people know that most of your personal information is probably online, and an identity thief anywhere in the world can freely get this information!
Even if I hadn’t had my identity stolen, and I’m really glad that my information (or at least most of it) is no longer so easy to find on the internet. Knowing that anyone could find out about my divorce/bankruptcy and arrest, literally the most embarrassing points in my life, literally made me want to cry! Thankfully, it wasn’t that hard to remove, and even more importantly, it seems that I’m finally getting control of my own identity back.