Nowhere To Hide

The good – Friends can find you

The bad – Even people you don’t want to can find you

The ugly – Someone could use the info maliciously

 

Last night I received a phone call from an old friend I last talked to over 20 years ago. I was totally shocked, to say the least. She said she found my phone number and address on the Yellow Pages web site. This morning I checked, and sure enough, there was a listing for me on yellowpages.com.

I’ve never advertised in the Yellow Pages, and don’t have an account on yellowpages.com. I do work out of my home, when I’m fortunate enough to have work, which lately has been VERY rare. But I have never registered my address or phone number as a place of business. I do have business class phone service, only to have better ADSL service. So I suppose that’s how my info got into the databases at yellowpages.com.

But I’m Supposed To Have An Unpublished Listing
My phone service was set up as a “private,” or unpublished, listing. Somehow, perhaps in the switch from “regular” residential to business service, my service provider changed my listing info to published. Maybe you can’t have an unpublished listing with business class service? I don’t know, but I’ll certainly be calling my service provider to find out.

But it’s too late now. Even if I could change my listing back to unpublished, the damage has already been done. The info is already out there in the publicly-available databases, and easily found using the web. There’s no way to reverse that—no way to put the genie back into the bottle.

Harmless Or Potentially Malicious?
Last night’s phone call seemed harmless enough. She said she had found some old photos of mine, and wanted to return them to me. I would really like to have these photos, and told her I would appreciate receiving them. We probably talked for around 30 minutes, catching up on what’s happened in our lives over the past 20 years or so. It all seems pretty harmless.

But what if someone wanted to use my phone number and address info for malicious purposes? I’ve always tried to be nice to people. But like everyone else, I’m sure that I’ve made a few enemies along the way. Do I need to be extra cautious the next time UPS delivers a package? Should I check each piece of mail for potentially dangerous contents? Am I being overly paranoid?

The Internet: Your Private Detective
You can find almost anything on the web. Info about people, places, and things. Just do a Google search, and you’ll have hundreds, if not thousands, of hits to follow. If you craft a good search string, the results will be even more focused and specific to your search. The Internet and Google have displaced the need for the old gum shoe.

Is Your Private Info Really Private?
Everyone should already know that anything they post on the web is freely available to the public. As we’ve seen, even supposedly “private” posts on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc., aren’t safe. The same goes for the millions of forums across the web. Even your private email messages could fall into the wrong hands, be posted on the web, and become available to the public.

CNN, DMZ, and all the other “news” agencies that engage in scandalous reporting, would love nothing more than to ruin your reputation, if they thought it might improve their ratings by half a point.

You Think Your Info Is Safe?
Hackers have proven that they can get into virtually any company’s private servers. Once there, they can mine all sorts of info—names, account numbers, social security numbers, financial data, health records, etc. You don’t even have to post it on the web yourself. If ANY company, doctor, hospital, government agency, etc., has info about you, you can be certain that info is stored in a database, on a server which can be accessed via the Internet. You can also be certain that some day a hacker will try to access that data, and perhaps be successful.

Are You Scared Yet?
If all this doesn’t scare you, it probably should. We’ve all seen the reports on TV how stalkers and predators use the web to find their victims. Virtually every day a hacker finds their way into a private database and accesses private info. Odds are great that someone is seeking info about you at this very moment. I hope that your info is safe.

…jf…

3 Responses to “Nowhere To Hide”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Four weeks have passed, and I’ve still not received my photos. Now I don’t claim to be a genius, but I’m thinking that my “old friend” called me for some reason other than to return my old photos, since a carrier pigeon could have gotten them here by now.

    Was this person playing amateur detective? Are her intentions less than honorable? Was she fishing for information for herself, or for somebody else? Should I be waiting for the other shoe to drop?

    I hate being jerked around.

    …jf…

  2. Jeff Says:

    Now eight weeks, and still no photos!

    …jf…

  3. Jeff Says:

    12 weeks have now passed, and still no photos! I suppose it’s safe to assume that I will NEVER get my photos back.

    …jf…