Thursday, November 09, 2006

Life: My Own Background Check

A search for an ex-friend's last known address brought about the idea to do a background check on myself and see what people get when they do one on me. People meaning apartment owners, employers, creditors (banks), and non-profits that I have partnered with (mostly that deal with children).
Some observations:
  • So many variations on my names, including unknown initials and bad spellings. One report actually had my nickname, which I use when filling out non-essential web stuff. Web sharing of personal information?
  • Most addresses I've lived at are correct (missing apartment numbers and such on a few). I had a couple of unknown addresses though - one in Texas and another in Virginia - both places I have never lived or been! Identity theft?
  • Birthdates that make me anything from 20 years old to 53! I don't even know how to explain that.
  • One record (for which I paid $10) had the last 4 digits of my SSN. Now we are in trouble.
  • My credit report shows collections companies and government agencies requesting my credit. Since I have no debt, I have no idea why debt collectors would be looking at my credit. The government agency deal is understandable - I applied for a job a while back that require clearance.
  • One report attempted to figure out who my relatives are. Weird variations of my last name showed up, none of which is anyone I know. Good luck with that, data-mining tool.
  • Another report has me on the board of directors for a religious NGO operating in Uganda. I can see the relation, but I know nothing about it.
  • Not exactly up to date - almost all report were about 6-10 months old. So if someone moved quite often, some items may never show up [private investigator tip].
  • Schools and places of employment are also hinted at (names only). Are you getting scared yet?
So, with personal information on the internet like this, and easily accessible for less than $10, what protections do we have? I dare say none! I found a record from when I was 17 - the first phone service I ever signed up for through Sprint. Old information doesn't disappear on the web. For the possibility of making money on hard-to-find records, companies keep that data almost forever (storage is cheap). Since the sources are not published, you cannot petition for your information to be erased. It's a sort of hopeless situation. I can only think of bad things with such ease of getting people's information - stalkers, identity thieves, Big Brother, blackmail ...
I've got to enter the witness protection program ... I felt pretty vulnerable by how much the web knows about me, for cheap. Hack it.

1 comment:

Sveta said...

Believable, after having my identity stolen and a sorry-ass ex always somehow running into me EVERYWHERE. Must keep an eye on your credit!!!