How to protect against home or phone harassment via contact info found online?
March 18, 2010 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone had success using any service to remove personal contact information, including just the name of the town where you live, from online public records searches? In short, I would like to make it as difficult as humanly possible for people to use the internet to track me down in meatspace.

I have been on the internet for a very long time. I understand that there will always be Google hits on my name, and I'm fine with that. I'm also fine with links to my websites, forum posts, etc etc to come up on searches for my name. What I want, though, is to get my home address, even the name of my town, and my phone number, off of,, Intelius, etc. Basically, I do not want visits and calls from people looking me up online.

Has anyone done this? Does something like ReputationDefender MyPrivacy (or a similar service) actually work? Does it make things extra further complicated that I've had several legal names over the course of my life, and that it's very easy to find that out by simply Googling one of them? (Again, I'm OK with all the names being out there, but I don't know how well any privacy services may be set up to deal with protecting multiple "identities" that are one person.) And will I have to sign up my spouse for everything I sign up for too, to avoid being tracked down that way?

I know that someone very determined could find me via in-person, visit-to-the-local-courthouse types of efforts. I don't like it, but I'm aware. I just want to make it as hard as possible. (Shoulda thought of that before I bought a house, probably.)

Context for what must sound like an extra-sketchy request: I am a political activist working on an issue where zealots on the other side feel that it is their duty to stalk and terrorize people like me. I am no criminal, con artist, revolutionary, or bushy-headed off-the-grid survivalist. I just want to avoid, or at least delay, harassment for myself and especially importantly for my family, who will freak right out the first time I/we receive the almost-inevitable threats of violence via mail or phone.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Twentysomething: Get roommates. Have them sign up for utilities, leases, etc. When you move, don't fill out change-of-address forms. Prepaid cell-phone, do business in cash, all that criminal stuff.

Fortysomething: Form an LLC, possibly offshore or something. Then, when you do things like buy/rent property or register vehicles, do it in the name of the corporation. Depending on how much time and effort you want to put into this, consider layers of holding companies, communicating only through lawyers, all that con-artist stuff.
posted by box at 7:31 PM on March 18, 2010

(This won't get your information off the search engines, but it'll go a long way toward making it outdated.)
posted by box at 7:35 PM on March 18, 2010

Instead of an LLC, you can also consider a revocable trust. Some of the lawyers here, who are not your lawyers, can probably provide more information, but it won't be legal advice.
posted by procrastination at 7:49 PM on March 18, 2010

This is a big concern for a lot of people. Particularly any professional who sees clients that may become disgruntled and violent - doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, etc.

I would be VERY wary of any service that claims to purge you from online databases. Many of these are just scams or predatory businesses who prey on the fears of the unwary and un-internet-savvy.

(If you're familiar with web search engines, this is loosely analogous to services who will charge a ridiculous fee in order to submit your site to search engines. Which you can always do for free by yourself, if you're willing to take like 3 minutes out of your day!)

Any service is going to have a "remove me from your listings" link. You may have to dig around to find it, but it's there. I wouldn't personally pay a service to do this for me, but I'm web-savvy and have free time. There's no magic involved - just a bit of online footwork.
posted by ErikaB at 8:16 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had one particular person who was way too interested in me. I found that no matter how much I tried to anonymize, I popped up in places I never thought I would. For example, I was an assistant coach on my child's soccer team when he was 8. My name, phone number and email was posted on some league site. Part of the name of the league was my town so... I came to the conclusion that the best I could do was to have an unlisted number, not use an answering machine, I now give out one of my three google voice numbers and I never fill out information online for any organization in which I may participate.

I do plan on moving in the next year or so and I will set up a shield of some sort to buy my next house. Either a trust or an LLC. The hard part is my kids. They inadvertently post identifying information on line and their friends who call them by our last name sort of out our location if you really want to find it.

I would not pay for the service only because I do not think they could ever be all encompassing enough. Get an unlisted number, use caller id, do not use an answering machine and get a post office box.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:50 PM on March 18, 2010

It's won't help purge information, but a having a P.O. Box to use as a mailing address helps make it a little more work to find you. When we moved we tried redirect as much as we could to the P.O. Box. Everytime I send out a contract, sign up for something, etc. I'm glad my home address isn't listed, cause, well, you just don't ever know.

And your request doesn't seem sketchy at all.

Also not sure if this would be of help: how to be invisible
posted by snowymorninblues at 8:56 PM on March 18, 2010

ErikaB: "Any service is going to have a "remove me from your listings" link."

That does not seem to be true. A few will "lock" your records for a annual fee, but even the threat of immediate harm isn't enough to make them forgo the fee.

I had my identity stolen, and I have had absolutely zero luck getting any of the sites that the OPP mentioned removing information.

If there is a way, short of spending hundreds of dollars each year to individually lock each site, to remove data from the web, I haven't found it yet.
posted by dejah420 at 9:00 PM on March 18, 2010

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