DON'T PANIC! BE CALM, COOL, COLLECTED & STRATEGIC
Data breaches DO NOT always lead to identity theft. Your information was pilfered for many reasons that sometimes is beyond your control. What is within your control is what you do about it once data was breached and to prevent future breaches. We hope to address this in this article.
Whenever you sign up for a social media account, receive coupons, newspapers, magazines or reward cards, the chances of your data being breached is greater. Unfortunately, your family doctor's office also sells data that could be used by third parties. Don't be fooled by HIPPA policy which has plenty of loopholes. Have you ever wondered why you were receiving mailers from businesses you do not recognise?
Military personnel learned the hard way about data breaches after deployment and even during peace time. The old military roster listed sensitive data that included soldiers' social security numbers, also known as the "serial" number. Now, military identification cards do not list social security numbers. If you live in the United States, apply for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Employer Identification Number (EIN) because humans can't be trusted!
Since our university days, we have also become a privacy advocate and a fierce Defender of the Public Trust since the government and financial institutions exacerbate the data piracy loophole. State and local governments are notorious for exposing your private data that includes voting records, property taxes and even the driver and vehicle licensing agency. I never understood the reason why these records should be made public. This is another reason why you need to be proactive.
The BEST defense against a data breach is to set up barriers. It is ironic that data brokers that sell your information such as Radaris, MyLife, InstantCheckmate and Whitepages, to name a few, try very hard to hide their ownership and personal data from the rest of the public whist exposing yours. Radaris, for instance, has off shore accounts that are nearly untraceable. But data fingerprints can ALWAYS be traced, so we did so of the top data brokers and executives.
Now, what can you do to create barriers? For one, never use your REAL residential address, phone or email address. It all starts with estate planning and forward thinking. You do not need to be rich or even own properties to initiate estate planning. You can still protect yourself even as a renter. If you own properties, put them into a trust that cannot be traced to your REAL NAME. We have properties in NYC, DC, London and Tuscany that have NEVER been compromised by data brokers. We Google ourselves too because we know what is at stake. Data changes and you need to be on top of it.
Since 2004, we were in control of our personal data. We have orchestrated what was written about us, how it was publicised on the internet and what was publicised. If you want the data broker bots to advertise you, include whatever you want to publicise on your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profile - even if the information is BOGUS. The bots crawl and add information, bringing it back to the data broker hosts to be indexed, publicised and sold. Remember, whatever you publicise on the internet can be retrieved since digital dust is left behind, like a fingerprint.
Our current data "profiles" listed on data broker sites include information that are all muted and outdated. In the United States, we used both residential and commercial addresses that were on the market and have since been sold; garages, storage units and even mail boxes such as Pakmail, UPS and USPS. We own no land line and our mobile numbers are either burner phones, VOIP and/or use forwarding telephony. We use masked emails that forward to our REAL email accounts. Our mobile phone connectivity is also designed to receive only certain phone numbers in specific geographic locations. We have listed some of these "tricks of the trade" below.
Here are the T.E.A.M's best kept secrets of living in a virtual world. In addition to the recent Equifax data breach, many innocent and good people are getting hurt by the deplorable acts of aggression by data brokerage companies. This is especially true of our military family members.
1. Set up a mail box. The UPS store and Pakmail are great alternatives to using your ACTUAL residential home address. Contrary to popular belief, financial companies will mail to any physical address listed with the post office.
2. Setup up a burner phone/VOIP or Google voice that masks your real phone number behind a secondary one. When setting up a burner phone DO NOT load your contacts from mobile. You could opt out of doing this. You could change numbers at any time. Keep in mind that some changes might incur a fee.
3. Setup email forwarding. We found gmail is easy to set up. Go to settings>Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Keep one email address for all your incoming mail. Keep multiple other emails to receive specific filtered and forwarded emails. If your email(s) are ever compromised BUT you don't want to get rid of them, you can filter and forward specific emails from the breached ones to your other emails et VOILA! Gmail never reuses deleted email accounts.
4. Setup privacy contact for your website or use your attorney's mailing address and contact (with their permission, of course). Data brokers want YOUR information, not your attorneys. Internet service providers such as Go Daddy offer privacy for a nominal fee. So instead of using your physical address, you can set up a "dummy" one.
5. Setup a Trust. Did you know you could put your properties in trust so your physical name and address is never associated with each other? Unfortunately for home owners, whenever you buy property, it is registered in your name, for thieves to dig up on the internet. Consult a qualified attorney who specialise in estate planning.
6. Delete social media contacts, even if you set up privacy. Even if you set up a privacy barrier on Facebook et al, any contact information you post is still viewed by your "friends." Most of these "friends" are "spies" and yes, they will connect with you to get at your data. We tested this "theory" with one of our test phone numbers specific to Facebook only. Within three months, that phone number ended up on a data brokerage list.
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