How Does Your Personal Information get Online?

If an employer runs a background check, the service will get most of its information from candidates. Job and housing applicants submit resumes, applications, and other screening documents. If the applicant was dishonest, the screening will reveal this.

We can hardly blame landlords and employers for wanting to find prospective tenants or employees’ personal information. Screenings are one of the best ways to explore someone’s character and background. Screening services use public reports and data.

You Put It Online

Simply put, that’s how personal information gets online. Usually, information that’s publicly available originates with a person. It is created in the process of ordering from a catalog, buying a property, using social media, making retail purchases, renting an apartment, and other routine business transactions.

After the US government passed the Freedom of Information Act, detailed information can also come from state and federal public records. The aim was to facilitate accountability and transparency through the legal process.

Information not Available Online

Due to HIPAA laws, medical records are private. Other private data that cannot be disclosed by custom or by law includes tax returns, employment records, and some financial data. Real estate property transactions are normally publicly accessible.

What Information do Public Records Contain?

A plethora of personal data is freely available or accessible in exchange for a small fee. In some jurisdictions, people are allowed to search the local web portal. In others, you might have to search on site at the county courthouse.

Public records usually include things like your social security number and your mother’s maiden name. As birth records are public, they will have your mother’s name. Incidentally, that’s one of the most common security questions and one that people can easily find the answer to.

A bankruptcy record or lawsuit filing could include a social security number. As these are public, the number is made public as well. Anyone who has the time to look will find this information.

Unfortunately, people tend to be too generous with their personal data. Moreover, sites don’t always secure it adequately. Correspondingly, the internet has become a haven for scammers and hackers.

Misuse of Information: The Risks

If a person wants to find your information, they might browse social networks, forums, shopping sites, digitized public records, and data deposits. Their findings will help them create a comprehensive portrayal of you as a person. By searching your name, they might find your date of birth, email and mailing addresses, signatures, phone numbers, passwords, and more.

They could also find information about your hobbies, religious affiliation or lack thereof, political preferences, interests, and significant others. They can use this data to commit a crime, such as applying for a loan in your name or even taking over your cell number or bank account.

Since many people use the same or similar passwords for their different accounts, an easy way to access an account is through a password stolen in a company data breach.

The Solution

It’s understandable that you’re beginning to worry about your online safety. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; ignorance is not bliss. Proactively managing your online footprint can help you stay safe. We share some tips for what you can do to secure your presence online.

Create Strong, Unique Passwords

Creating strong and unique passwords for every account is the most important thing. These passwords have to be one of a kind, not variations of a single password. All your accounts should have different ones. Once someone cracks your base password, they can guess the others and access all your accounts.

Keep Personal Data Private

Keep personal information like your birthday, your middle name, and your contact details on your social network accounts private. Ask online directories to delete your landline. This advice is more pertinent than ever given how easy it’s become to fall victim to identity theft. According to the Identity Theft Resources Center, the number of credit and debit card scams is on the rise. To stop scammers from getting access to your data, check your account statements and monitor your online transactions carefully. Use free consumer protection and register for free credit monitoring.

To Ease Your Mind…

If you’re worried about an upcoming employment background check, here’s something to ease your mind. Sensitive data discovered in this context is subject to extremely strict privacy protection regulations. What is more, it can’t be used to make hiring decisions as per FCRA and EEOC requirements.

Positions with an annual salary of over $75,000 are an exception to this rule. Not all reporting restrictions affect candidates for such jobs. Only screenings through an agency must comply with FCRA requirements. They don’t apply if the company’s recruiters perform the screening.

 

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