Why You Should Google Yourself Now

By Kim Komando, Komando

Ever wonder what’s online about you? Do you know how to really look in all the Internet’s crevices?

A simple Google search of someone’s name can turn up all kinds of things that most folks don’t want public. It might be embarrassing photos, an old message they forgot about or recent postings to a social media account.

Let me ask you this question. Do you really truly know what your employer, co-worker, friend or romantic partner can find if they Google your name?

What if your name is common? I recently took a call from a gentleman who had the same name as a convicted felon. You know the rest of the story. People looking up him found the convicted felon.

You need to more than type your name into Google. That’s a nice start but don’t stop there. And you should do what I do. Have Google send you email when the search site finds something new associated with your name on the Internet.

With the right tools, you should be able to take action without too much trouble. But, there’s one type of site that makes removing your information way harder than it should be. You really need to know about this.

Don’t take chances.

I’m talking about people search sites like Intelius, Spokeo and Whitepages. These scour the Internet looking for your personal information and then pull it into a package for snoops or anyone to find and buy.

You’d be surprised what kind of information these sites store, from your full name, phone number, current and past addresses to your email address, social media accounts, family relationships and much more.

Unfortunately, finding all the sites where you’re listed is going to take a while. Removing your information from these sites is even worse. They don’t exactly make it easy to opt out.

I do, however, have a solution that makes finding your information and removing it a breeze. Even better, this service is free. You can’t do much better than that.

This find-and-remove service is called Privacy Monitor, and it’s a free tool from my sponsor LifeLock. To use it, simply visit privacy.lifelock.com and to enter your name, the year you were born, and the state and city where you currently live.

You’ll be asked to create a free account so you can check back later and get email alerts if your information appears on a new site. Once that’s done, Privacy Monitor will scan the most popular people search and advertiser database sites.

You’ll see at a glance in the left column where Privacy Monitor thinks it found your name, email address, and more. Click on a site in the left column to see the details.

If you have a common name, you might find that the information Privacy Monitor found isn’t actually about you. In those cases you can click “Not me” to remove it from the list. Otherwise, you can click on “View Details” to see your entry on the site, or just go straight to the “Opt Me Out” button.

The first time you run through the scan, you should end up with a good number of results, but you might not be seeing everything there is. For example, the site might have you listed in a different city or state.

At the top of the Privacy Monitor page, click on your name to edit your Profile. Here you can add other names, phone numbers, addresses and email addresses. Whatever you put in here is what Privacy Monitor will use to search the sites.

After I tweaked my profile information, I showed up on several more sites that Privacy Monitor didn’t catch the first time through. Even better, I know that if any sites add my information in the future, I’ll get an alert.

Privacy Monitor is a great tool for keeping casual snoops from finding out more than they should, and it can make an identity thief’s job harder. However, it won’t stop your information from being exposed in a data breach, with a card skimmer at a gas station pump or from a virus. That gives identity thieves more than they need to turn your life upside down.

For full protection against people who steal your information and use it for damaging fraud, sign up for LifeLock’s full ID theft protection service. It watches your bank account and credit report for suspicious activity, along with keeping an eye out for your information on black market sites, in public records and other dangerous places.

When LifeLock finds a problem, it lets you know right away so you can take steps to fix things before identity theft ruins your life. Don’t leave yourself unprotected for another minute.

Visit LifeLock Privacy Monitor by going to privacy.lifelock.com. Remember, this service is free to use!

Whether it’s a potential employer, current employer, budding romantic partner, long-time significant other, or someone else in your life, there’s a good chance they have or will run a Google search for your name. Do you know everything that they’ll find?

The answer could make a difference between a job and the unemployment line, or a happily ever after and nights alone. That’s why you need to run your own search first.

Search Google for more than mentions

Start with a basic search for your name in quotes, such as “Kim Komando.” If you have a more common name, you might need to go through a number of pages to find yourself.

If you aren’t finding anything, you can use your name plus modifiers like the city or state you live in, the names of your school(s), the name of the company you work for, or some other distinguishing characteristic. Run a number of searches and see what turns up.

Afterwards, switch over to Google’s Image Search at images.google.com and locate any pictures of you. It’s much easier to scan hundreds of images quickly than hundreds of links. You might be surprised at the images you find.

If you’re worried that specific images have escaped your control, you can run a reverse image search. This is one of the slickest things you can do using Google Search.

On the Google Image Search page, click the camera icon in the search bar. Then paste in a link to the image, or upload an image, and Google will search the Internet for it. Your image can turn up even if it doesn’t have your name or other identifying information.

Next, run a search for your past and current email addresses and phone numbers. You might have used these on a site where you didn’t include your name. Online forums often use email addresses and usernames instead of real names to identify people.

Finally, run a search for your social media account usernames. Most people pick one or two and stick with those. For example, if you search for the username “kimkomando,” you’ll turn up my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts. It might reveal social accounts that you forgot about, or that are less private than you think.

Even if you don’t find much now, someone might post something about you in the future. Or something you post in the future might not be as private as you think.

That’s why you need to set up a free Google Alert. This service sends you an email when your name, or other information you choose, pops up online. It’s great to watch your own reputation as well as those of any competitors.

Remove information you don’t want public

In the course of your search, you might stumble upon information you don’t want online. It could be something you put up years ago, something someone else posted about you, or a large collection of your personal information on a people search site like Intelius or Spokeo.

If the information is from a site you control, such as Facebook, then you can simply go to your account and change the privacy settings, or just delete the post. Learn how to change your Facebook privacy settings so nothing important slips out.

When it comes to other sites, you’ll need to contact them about removing the information. If the information is copyrighted, such as a picture of you, you can reference the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It says that “[u]pon receiving proper notification of claimed infringement, the provider must expeditiously take down or block access to the material.” See Section 512(c) of the DMCA for more details. If that doesn’t work for whatever reason, then you consult a lawyer.

In situations where someone else has posted information about you, say on an Internet forum, contact the forum owners directly and ask them to take it down.

When it comes to people search sites that collect your public information and sell it to other people, you need to contact each site and complete a removal request. Alternatively, you can take a shortcut like LifeLock’s free Privacy Monitor or Abine’s DeleteMe. (Full disclosure: LifeLock is a sponsor on my national radio show.)

Since we’re talking about Google Search, I wanted to take a second to remind you that by default Google is recording every search you enter. It also records your location (if you use Google Maps), video-watching history and searches from YouTube, and plenty more. Anyone who gets into your Google account has a full record of everything you’ve done, plus access to your Gmail and other Google services.

If you haven’t visited your Google account and privacy settings in a while, it’s time.

In fact, Google just did a big overhaul to create the new My Account page that lays out your settings in a much easier-to-use fashion with more understandable explanations. Visit the Google My Account section today to beef up your Google security and choose what information Google records from your life.