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Internet Family Fun

Is Your Family Listed?

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Information To Help You From Being Found

A few years ago, having a listed telephone number was not a security risk to your family, today it could be. As computers and the Internet have grown, the easier it has become for anyone to get information about you and your family. Yellow and White pages offer a great service, where you can find family and friends very easily. In the wrong hands though, all this information could put you and your family in danger.

Several Internet sites offer a great service where you can find family and friends all over the world. They are huge databases of telephone listings and other sources of public information, which you can access free of charge. You can buy computer programs that offer residential and business listings, but the Internet sites are up to date in comparison. They are very convenient compared to the traditional telephone book because you can search different keywords (like a first name) instead of just a last name.

The trade off with the great convenience of being able to look up addresses and phone numbers all over the world is security risks to your family. If you are listed, anyone can find you.

We all hope that we do not have adversaries in the world, but if you do a listed telephone number could mean that you could be very easily found. Take for instance our recent experience of trying to find a friend's address that had moved out of the area.

We have a friend, John, that moved to Ohio a few years ago. During a recent visit to the area, we didn't think to get his address. All we knew was his name (not that uncommon) and that he lived in an unpopulated area of Ohio.

My husband and I went to InfoSpace and entered his first and last name and his state. This brought back two people in the state. We were quite sure that we knew which one was our friend, after looking at the maps of both areas, because one of them lived in a populated area. To be sure we entered his wife's name. This confirmed our suspicion.

In less than ten minutes, we had the following:

  • His mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • Map of the area
  • Directions to his home
  • List of his neighbors and their phone numbers and addresses

I know that they have a couple of children. Out of curiosity, I spent an additional five minutes and it gained me the following information:

  • A list of four school districts within a 10-mile radius of his home
  • Local businesses with names, addresses, phone numbers, and directions.

If I were an enemy of John's, I could literally go to his house, talk to his neighbors, go to his children's school, and contact these small businesses in his area to inquire about him.

When you and your children communicate over the Internet, you really do not know whom you are speaking to. You may have talked to a person for months and they may be trying to gain your confidence. Unfortunately this has happened, especially with children with their email and chat buddies. Predators can piece together little bits of information over months to add up to enough information to find you. Please take the time to read this Internet Fable to your children. It illustrates very well, how little pieces of information given out over time can turn into a disaster.

There are several services available that search on more than telephone records. They use public records such as court records, motor vehicle data, voter registration and professional license information to find information about you. These private investigation sites charge a fee and some ask for proof of a legitimate reason you want information about a person. A few examples of these companies are:

Protect Yourself

To protect yourself, take the following steps:

  • Never give out your last name and your exact location.
    Use a handle in chat rooms and on your email. It can be fun to come up with a nickname. Often others will ask you where you are from, just reply with the state name.
  • See if they list you in these huge data bases.
    Check popular address and telephone finders to see if you are listed. If you are, most offer an option to be taken off the list.
  • Consider having your phone number unlisted.
    This will not completely unlist you in the world, but it is a start.
  • Talk to your children about this!
    Children feel that parents are over protective. They also feel that they are invincible. You must remind them on a constant basis how critical this is.
  • Does your email address contain your last name?
    For example: If it does, consider changing it.
  • When you send and reply to email, does it substitute your name for the email address?
    To change the name the program gives out with a more generic one:
    In Outlook Express - Tools, Accounts, Mail Tab, Properties, change the User Name.
    In Netscape Messenger - Edit, Preferences, Click on Identity on the left-hand side, change your name.
  • Consider a filtering program.
    Some block your child from giving out personal information such as address and telephone number.

Being online can be a safe, fun, and educational experience for your family. Controlling the amount of information you give out online is imperative to your family's safety. Chances are you will never get a knock on your door by someone that is trying to harm you, but you must protect yourself. No person's safety is guaranteed in this life, but you can take steps to increase your safety. Just remember that you do not know who you are speaking to and what their intentions may be. Privacy and the right for others to obtain information is a huge complex issue. Whether having information about you on the Internet is right or wrong, know your risks and take action to protect yourself.

More Topics About Your Privacy

Identity Theft Kids and Blogs MySpace Online Shopping Safety
Phishing Scams Internet Advertising User Agreements Common Email Scams
How to Determine if it is a Secure Server All About Spam Find Out Who Owns a Website Secure Passwords
How to Secure Your Wireless Access Point Protect Yourself from Spyware Auto Complete With Internet Explorer Home Computer Security
Family Webpage Safety Reminders Is Your Family Listed? Remove Me From Your List Getting Unlisted In The Information Age
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