There are hundreds of shady websites out there, many of which hold our personal information. Some scam sites use click-bait material to lure people in. They are then persuaded to hand over money for a bogus “service”.
The majority of such sites don’t attract much traffic, but they can be used by fraudsters to scrape personal information. They can also be used by people looking to cause trouble by posting libelous rubbish.
The good news is that you can take steps to remove your personal information from shady websites. It might take a while, but it’s not impossible.
Contact the Site
Once you have identified some of your personal information on a shady website, contact the site’s webmaster and politely ask them to remove it. Provide relevant URLs to make it easier. They might not comply with your request, but you have at least tried.
The next step is to contact a lawyer. They can send an official letter to the site’s owner, which might provoke more of a response. If all else fails, you can apply for a court order to force a website to remove information pertaining to you. Once a court order is in place, search engines like Google will remove it from their search results. You can find out more about the process here.
Exercise Your Right to be Forgotten
Google is also your friend if you live in the EU. Thanks to EU legislation, EU citizens have the right to be forgotten and if a request is for information removal is accepted by the search giant, links are removed.
Elsewhere, it’s not so clear-cut. A recent court case ruling means that Google doesn’t have to apply the right to be forgotten outside of the EU. So, Google will remove data in the US, but only under specific circumstances (including court-ordered removal requests).
This page tells you more about the steps you must take to remove content from Google.
Use a Paid Data Removal Service
There are also paid services that claim to remove data on your behalf. These services also keep tabs on data uploaded to people-finder websites, which is handy if you want to maintain your privacy.
Run Regular Data Checks
Chances are you are blissfully unaware of what information is out there. After all, it’s not something most of us think about much. But you should give it more than a passing thought! Data is a very valuable commodity and people buy and sell personal data for huge sums of money. It’s used by companies for marketing purposes; and by scammers, too, as we’ve already mentioned.
Not convinced? Run a quick check to see what personal information is out there. Reputable websites like Nuwber are a quick and easy way to check how much of your personal information is out there. Type in your name, address, telephone number, etc. and see what comes back.
If you discover more information out there than you are comfortable with, follow the above to have it removed from as many sites as possible. The smaller your digital footprint, the less likely you are to be the victim of identity theft and other online scams.
Finally, remember that prevention is better than cure. Be very careful about how much information you post online. Where possible, lock down your social media accounts and don’t post anything on a public forum. It’s a lot easier to avoid information being disseminated than it is to have it removed.