by Michael McKay
The right to privacy can be a tenuous thing in this age of social media data-mining and government surveillance. Registrants know this all too well, because their privileged personal information – including data that potentially puts their families and employers at risk – is listed publicly for all to see and perhaps even to misuse. You can’t do much about that, but you can get your personal information removed from some other pesky lists if you know what to do, and I’m going to show you how!
First, let’s cover some generic advice that applies to all of the background check websites listed in this article.
- Use a computer, if possible, rather than a smart phone or tablet, to go through the removal process. There are programming scripts embedded in many of the websites which do not always work correctly on a mobile device.
- Keep in mind that these websites typically will display pages that are optimized for your specific web browser. What this means is, if the process doesn’t seem to be working correctly for you in one browser, switch to another and try again.
- Be sure to repeat the opt-out process for any aliases or nicknames you may have ever used in your lifetime. Do the same substituting your middle name as the first name. You might even want to repeat the process for each one of your immediate family members.
- Despite the many hyped-up claims of “free online background checks” that are purportedly available to the public, the reality is there are no free online background checks. Every one of these services charges either a one-time fee for a single search or a monthly subscription fee for unlimited searches. And most people are so convinced they can get a free report, they’ll take a pass on paying the fee.
I have listed (below) some detailed instructions for opting out of four of the most popular background check websites. Following that, I’ve listed several other sites in alphabetical order, with much briefer explanations of what you must do to remove yourself from their search results.
BeenVerified is a New York company that has been doing online background checks since 2007. They have over 100,000 subscribers who pay $10/month for unlimited searches. Their website gets roughly 20 million visitors per month and is listed as one of the most trafficked sites in the world. One important note about opting out from their searches: This process removes your name from their “People Search” database, which is by far the most common type of search done on their site. It does not remove you from other more specific types of searches, such as a public records search.
You do not have to have an account or be a member of BeenVerified to opt out of their searches. Opting out is free. The process takes effect within 24-48 hours. To verify that it’s been done, simply go back to their website and search for yourself. Be sure to clear your computer cache beforehand to ensure you’re seeing live results, rather than a previous copy of the page being served up from your computer’s hard drive.
Search their database by typing in your first and last name. This will result in multiple results which will include yourself and others with the same or similar names. Click on the link that is most likely to be you. This action takes you to a page where you’re asked to type in your email address. Be sure to input a working email, since it generates an automated email which you’ll need to use to verify your request.
BeenVerified is located at 48 W 38th Street – 8th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Their phone number is 888-579-5910. Fax: (212) 813-3276. Customer service hours are 8am-10pm weekdays, 10am-8pm on weekends. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PeopleFinder.com, which was founded in 2014, provides by-name searches and reverse telephone number searches, and the results draw from a database which includes about 80% of the people in the United States. The company boasts 7 million users and is owned by Digimedia, which also owns and maintains Recipes.com, FantasyFootball.com, Chairs.com, Dress.com, Trips.com, Clinic.com, and other sites. They probably mine data from their other online businesses to PeopleFinder, so be careful about giving up privileged personal information on such sites.
Two important notes about PeopleFinder: They are an extremely aggressive affiliate marketer, which means they have a huge number of online partners who market their services under different names and web domains while utilizing their database. Also, they are not the same company as “PeopleFinders.com” (note the plural “finders.” See below for that company). Opting out of PeopleFinder is free and takes effect within 24-48 hours.
Fill out the online form as accurately as possible. Choose “General Privacy Concerns” as your reason. Choosing any of the “incorrect information” options could conceivably result in them badgering you to update your personal information in their database. You can opt out of all of Digimedia’s data warehousing and marketing at the Network Advertising Initiative website at: http://optout.networkadvertising.org/?c=1#!/
You can also request removal by sending a letter to: 500 108th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004-5580.
TruthFinder was founded in 2015 and appears to be an Intellius affiliate, meaning it draws from their database as well as from a couple of other companies.
Perform a search of your name. The following page will display your record, and possibly some similar or related records. Choose yours and click the “Remove This Record” button. This takes you to a page where you’re asked to supply an email address. It should take effect within 48 hours.
Truthfinders’s physical address is: TruthFinder, ATTN: Opt-Out, 2534 State St. Suite 473, San Diego, CA 92101. Their telephone number is 800-699-8081. Customer service is 7 days a week, 5:00 am to 10:00 pm PST. You can email them at email@example.com.
Intellius has become one of the “heavy hitters” in the background check industry since it was founded in 2003. They, too, have an extremely aggressive affiliate marketing program, and many of their “competitor” websites offering “free” background checks are actually just portals for Intellius, which offers the website owners a commission on each search.
Go to: https://www.intelius.com/
You’ll be asked to conduct a search for yourself. Press the “select and continue” button. Input your email address and continue. Result become effective within 72 hours, and the site provides a tracking button to check the status of your opt-out request.
To opt out off-line, Intellius accepts requests via fax only, at 425-974-6194. To be removed from the company’s public-records database, a consumer must send a copy of identification, such as a driver’s license, that has the person’s name, address and birth date. The photo and license number can be crossed out. The process takes four to six weeks. Their office number is 425-974-6196.
Here are some of the less popular sites, in alphabetical order:
Go to: https://isapps.acxiom.com/optout/optout.aspx. You can also call the Acxiom opt-out hotline at 1-888-322-9466 and press Option 2.
AnyWho is a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. that lists residential addresses and phone information. Their data is supplied by Intellius. Search for yourself, then click your name. Look for the “remove listing” link just below your name. Fill out the form and submit.
Use the form supplied at: https://peekyou.com/about/contact/optout/index.php. Or you can email them a request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to: https://www.peoplefinders.com/manage and follow the instructions. To opt out by mail, send your first and last name, middle initial, aliases, address, date of birth and addresses for the past 20 years to 1821 Q Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811. They should complete the removal within 10 business days and send a confirmation letter if the consumer provides a self-addressed envelope. Confi-Chek Inc. is the parent company of PeopleFinders.com.
Look up your data on the site first. Copy the web address of that profile from the top of your Internet browser and paste it into the form linked above. Provide an email address and validate the link in the email once you receive it. Effective in 2-3 days.
The site, which is a subsidiary of SuperMedia LLC, now redirects to WhitePages.com
Look yourself up on their site, select all records that pertain to you and print them out a sheet that includes the record number. Mail or fax the paperwork to them along with a photocopy of your driver’s license. The fax number and address will supposedly be on the printed sheets.
Search for yourself, then click the “View Details” button. Copy the URL at the top of your browser, then go to: http://www.whitepages.com/suppression_requests. Paste the link into the appropriate box, and supply your phone number. A robot calls and asks you to punch in the code number that appears on your screen.
ZabaSearch is owned by Intellius. Follow the instructions above to opt out of their search results.
I hope this information proves helpful to you. If you have any other tips, comments, or suggestions on how to reduce your online profile to keep yourself and your family safer, why not include them in the comments below? ~ Michael M.