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Worried about Privacy?

Q. I heard that anyone can get my name and address and even directions to my house on the Internet. This is scary. Is it true?

There are indeed a lot of places on the Internet where somebody can find out (for free or a fee) all kinds of information about you.

Most of this information is a matter of public record that anyone could have learned about from the court records, phone book, etc. but the Internet makes it very quick and easy to use. Let's look at a popular example.

As you may be aware, the largest search engine on the Internet is a site called Google. It offers almost immediate results to any search items you may type in.

If you go to the main Google page at www.google.com you will see a box where you can type in something and then click Google Search and Google will find web sites that contain your search words (maybe millions of sites).

Try typing in your phone number - in quotes, skip the dashes and periods - just the numbers, such as "1234567890" and see what you get.

It will come up (usually) with your name, phone, address, city, state and zip plus a link to Yahoo Maps and MapQuest that will display your home or office in a map.

So when you give out your phone number to someone they can easily find out your real name, where you live and have a map showing directions to your door.

If you want to be removed from the list, just click on the icon of the telephone that appears next to the result and you will be taken to a page where you can fill out a form to be removed.

But that will only remove you from that one particular list. There are limitless such lists on the Internet.

They key is to prevent important personal information such as social security number and mother's maiden name from getting out. No reputable web site or e-mail message will ask for your social security number. Just don't give it out.

If you are buying from a reputable e-commerce site like Amazon.Com or QVC.Com you may have to enter credit card information but never your social security number.

Here's a fun one to try. If you go to www.anybirthday.com you can find the birthdate (age) of someone by typing in their name and partial zip code.

So, if you have been telling people for years that you are 29 and don't want them to discover the truth, you better go to http://anybirthday.com/optout.htm and fill out the removal form.

Answered by Tech Expert Dan Hanson


If you have computer or Internet questions, e-mail our Tech Guru at tech@ClevelandSeniors.Com


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