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If you've survived domestic violence and are now living somewhere safe, you likely have several tools to protect your privacy and increase your security. These may include getting your mail sent to a P.O. box, having security cameras and blocking your abuser's phone number.
But some of your personal information—like your address or phone number—could be posted on the internet on people finder sites. If you're looking for a simple way to find and remove this exposed data and possibly add another layer of security to your safety plan, consider running a personal privacy scan.
Threats Faced by Survivors of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Victims may face threats against their physical safety, financial autonomy and emotional health. But even after leaving an abusive situation, survivors must consider potential ongoing dangers. These include:
- Stalking: Stalking is repeated, unwanted contact either virtually or in person. It may include an abuser calling or messaging repeatedly or showing up at a victim's home or place of work. Protecting contact information such as phone numbers, emails, social media accounts and physical addresses may make it more difficult for a stalker to reach a victim.
- Financial fraud: Having access to your personal information such as a phone number, Social Security number or address may enable an abuser to commit financial fraud against you, such as opening accounts in your name. Consider adding a fraud alert to your credit files to be immediately notified of any attempted fraud.
- Violence: Unfortunately, for many victims, violence does not simply end when they leave an abuser. Leaving may be the most dangerous time for a victim, and this danger can persist into the early years of separation. Protecting access to information about your location is an important way to help keep yourself safe.
Many states have address confidentiality programs, like California's Safe at Home Program, which provide confidential mail-forwarding, confidential voter registration and suppression of DMV records among other actions to protect the privacy of survivors. But some of these programs—like New Jersey's Address Confidentiality Program—must be enacted after or during a move to a new location.
A personal privacy scan can provide an extra layer of protection and can be enacted at any time for survivors of domestic violence who are looking to shore up their online privacy.
What Is a Personal Privacy Scan?
A personal privacy scan is a tool you can use to help protect your identity and get alerted to where your information is posted online, such as on people finder sites (websites that collect and sell personal information). In addition to helping you protect your address information, a privacy scan can also help protect you from identity thieves, robocallers and hackers who use information posted about you online for illicit purposes.
Some of the information a personal privacy scan may find exposed online includes:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Home address
- Relatives and their personal information
When you run a personal privacy scan, it can turn up results for you in minutes, showing where your personal information is posted online. You'll also receive some information about what to do next to make sure any exposed data is protected.
With Experian's personal privacy scan, you'll see which data broker and people finder sites may have your information, and you can contact these sites individually to request removal.
Best Ways to Protect Your Personal Information
Scrubbing your data from people finder sites and other places may help keep your information private, but there are other things you can do to protect it even more:
- Keep an eye on your credit. Your credit report is a consolidated listing of any credit activity under your name. Checking your credit regularly can help you see who has been pulling your credit report (such as businesses looking to extend you credit or set up a utility account) or any credit lines taken out under your name without your permission. It's also a good way to help you see where you stand and keep an eye on your finances. If you have a fraud alert in place, creditors should verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
- Make social media private. If you are trying to protect your personal information, social media is not your friend. Think about making accounts under something other than your real name and locking down profiles with the most restrictive privacy settings.
- Switch up your passwords. When you use duplicate passwords, you open up multiple accounts to security risks if one happens to be compromised. One way to protect your privacy online is to make sure you use different passwords for your accounts.
- Be careful with your trash. If you're going to throw away any documents with personal information, make sure to shred them first. Throwing away official documents with your name, address and Social Security number can be an identity theft risk.
Protecting your privacy after surviving domestic violence is essential, especially online. Experian's personal privacy scan is one tool to help protect your personal information from appearing in unwanted places on the internet.