How to Remove Yourself from the Internet and Data Brokers!

It does not occur to any individual or any business initially that the “strange” texts, emails, or phone calls they are getting are indeed the work of scam artists who have hacked into their personal information, and have sold the information for top dollar to Internet identity theft data brokers.  It happens most often when posting personal information on social media, especially phone numbers, addresses and pictures of oneself and loved ones.  Social media of all types is rife with scammers that hijack personal information and use it to trick others into sending money, or other merchandise to them.  However, the big money lies for most of these scam artists in selling and reselling the lists of personal information to data brokers.

These lists can be sold over again countless times.

Not just to scammers but to telemarketers.  The actual phone numbers from which phone calls and text messages originate, should never be answered, as they are not the real phone numbers.  If a phone number or text message comes from a number that is not recognized it should be ignored and no one, either a business owner, employee of a business or individual should ever click any links within text or email messages that they do not recognize as diversion to a scam site does occur.  No personal info should ever be given over the phone or through text or email.  Some scammers go so far as to pretend to be from government agencies and too many individuals fall for this scheme.

Most individuals and businesses are not highly aware of data brokers. 

In fact, when asked, most individuals will not even know what this type of business is, and data brokering is a huge and highly lucrative business for the brokers.  They spend all day each day gleaning information on unsuspecting victims, and some data brokering firms (yes, there are firms), have millions of important data they have gleaned for sale multiple times.  Many firms are legitimate, as they only collect certain types of information such as name, phone number, and email.  These are then sold to marketing companies, and the telemarketing companies use these.

These can be pesty, but they are not all that dangerous.

The info collected by legitimate data brokers is minimal.  Scam artist list brokers are much different, and they collect all personal information, such as addresses, social security numbers, banking information, and even pictures of the victims.  These types of data brokers can help scammers swindle thousands upon thousands of dollars from unsuspecting individuals.  These data brokers also are especially deadly for businesses as they can and will pretend to be a business and spam others in the name of the business, or call others in the name of the business.

When this happens the customers that a business has are the targets.

It is easy to get more information from customers that would not be shared otherwise as a relationship already exists between the customer and the business.  This can and will ruin the reputation of the business, and possibly lead to litigation.  A business that “seems” to be spamming can also lose their hosting services, as most hosting services prohibit spamming in their TOS (Terms of Service).  Proving that the business is not the one sending the emails or making the phone calls is difficult at best.

Shopping websites are especially vulnerable.

Social media ads can be purchased using a fake site as all personal information is obtained for the site. Just look at some of the social media ads that appear online recently, especially during the pandemic.  Scamming increases significantly during times of fear and uncertainty worldwide.  Add to this mix, the fact that more individuals are shopping online than ever before, and this is a recipe for disaster.  A visit to social media sites will immediately offer up dozens upon dozens of “weirdly-named” website ads, showing clothing and other goods at unbelievable prices.  The prices are unbelievable, as these sites for the most part are not real shopping sites, but just reroute a consumer to a different URL than what the name of the site is.

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the actual domain name of a true website.

Fake URLs, are generally shortened versions of the site domain name, and if a person does click the link, they should check the web browser first to ensure it indeed went to the company and not some strange URL with extensions of numbers, letters, etc.  It is always wise to contact a company also as they will welcome this knowledge.  The scam shopping sites now online, for someone not Internet savvy induces customers into submitting personal info by using products with prices that seem too good to be true.  The names are also many times off, with a strange sounding combination like “wshyg.com” which most individuals cannot even pronounce.

Mamabee.com, is just recovering from a harrowing experience with a scammer.

Whether the name of their company was purchased, or simply used by an individual, this well-known, respectable company, which furnishes children’s products and information for parents and which prides itself on its dedication to its clients had their name used by someone who contacted their customers.  They had to post a disclaimer on their site which warned their customers of this scamming event. Chances are good that the person who impersonated this business is also doing it to other businesses.  Chances are also good that the Mamabee name and site information was sold to someone through a scam data broker.  When this happens, there is no way for a business or individual to know how many other scammers have their personal information and what is being posted about them online or elsewhere.

Once someone becomes aware that their data is being misused removal is paramount.

This is not as difficult as it sounds. How to remove yourself from data brokers can be done but by a company that specializes in “scrubbing” data broker lists.  The first step starts with finding out where your personal information exists and OneRep is an identity theft protection company that provides a free tool where you can check right on the first page of their website. This lets anyone know where their data exists online.  There is a step-by-step blog on OneRep on how to “self-scrub”, but this would literally take most individuals and businesses too much time and effort.  It is a rather arduous process to do by oneself.   OneRep provides data removal services that are fast and efficient and quite affordable.  Protecting one’s identity either personally or professionally should be a priority.  Services like OneRep can assist in data removal and continual monitoring of with alerts when infringements happen.  These companies are needed now in the sometimes scary world of today.

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