Do you remember when you had to give your permission and opt-in to a website or directory before they could list your and your business’s information? Those days, unfortunately, are gone.
These days, there are numerous online data brokers tossing up personal and private information with or without your consent.
On the surface, businesses such as data brokers seem like a good idea. They look like quick ways to do background checks—on potential employees, on your primary competitors in the marketplace, and even on yourself to see what other people see — all for a very low cost.
The reality of these businesses is quite different, though. A quick check can turn up a plethora of false information. This is because the sources these services comb for their information aren’t checked for accuracy.
Another worry that many businesses and individuals have is that the systems can be used really easily by identity thieves to gather information about potential targets.
After all, these services don’t care why you want the information you’re ordering. They only care that you have the $20 to pay for the report (which is often inaccurate).
This isn’t just worrisome on a personal level. It matters professionally as well. Consider the following:
Someone wants to figure out whether or not you are trustworthy enough to partner with for a business project. They Google you, check out your social media profiles, and then, wanting to be thorough, run a report with a data broker.
The data broker’s report contains a bunch of information about you that isn’t correct but that has been assigned to your record because your name is similar to someone else’s or someone who used to live at your current address was less than a stand-up citizen.
Kiss that potential contract good-bye.
It isn’t important that you track down every single data-mining organization masquerading as a background check organization or consumer reporting agency. What matters is that you know what to do about them when you find them.
1. Make sure that you know how to get your information removed from their systems.
2. Follow up to ensure that once you’ve requested your data to be deleted (or changed), it has actually been done.
3. Alert the Better Business Bureau and the FTC if they fail to take the action they have promised to take.
4. Do not pay for any of this. If an organization is trying to charge you a fee to delete information you did not authorize them to publish, report them to the FTC for fraud.
You’re probably already using reputation management software or services. Many of these programs and services have built-in mechanisms for dealing with data miners. Take advantage of their offerings to help streamline the process.
Erin Steiner is a freelance writer who writes about small business topics for a variety of websites such as Reputation.com.