For Seniors: Understand Your Internet Exposure
Information about you is all over the Internet, so even if you're not active online, your personal information may be at risk. Unfortunately, your Internet exposure depends not only on your own cautious nature, but also the level of security others place on your information.
Employers: Many employers share information about employees in various ways. An employer might post employee bios on their websites, share information online about attendees to an upcoming conference, or post employee information on its private network (intranet),
Consider carefully how much information you're comfortable with sharing in such situations. Even after you retire, information about you may remain for a while on your former employer's website.
Government agencies: Some agencies post personal information, such as documents concerning your home purchase and property tax, on publicly available websites. Government agencies may also post birth, marriage, and death certificates, and these documents may contain your Social Security Number, loan number, copies of your signature, and so on.
Family members and friends: They may write about you in their blogs or mention you on special-interest sites, such as those focused on genealogy.
Clubs and organizations: Organizations with whom you volunteer, the church you attend, and professional associations may reveal facts such as your address, age, income bracket, and how much money you’ve donated.
Newspapers: If you've been featured in a newspaper article, you may be surprised to find the story, along with a picture of you or information about your work, activities, or family, by doing a simple online search. If you’re interviewed, ask for the chance to review the information that the newspaper will include, and be sure that you're comfortable with exposing that information.
Online directories: Services such as White Pages or AnyWho list your phone number and address, unless you specifically request that these be removed. You may be charged a small fee associated with removing your information — a so-called privacy tax — but you may find the cost worthwhile. Online directories often include the names of members of your family, your e-mail address, the value of your home, your neighbors' names and the values of their homes, an online mapping tool that provides a view of your home, driving directions to your home, and your age. The record may also include previous addresses, schools you’ve attended, and links for people to run background checks on you.
Because services get new information from many sources, you'll need to check back periodically to see if your information has again been put online — if it has, contact the company or go through their removal process again.
Try entering your home phone number in any browser's address line; chances are that you’ll get an online directory listing with your address and phone number (although this doesn't work for cellphone numbers).