On November 15, 2019, Cincinnati’s WLWT5 Investigates featured our Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger. Dan Griffin, Investigative Reporter, reached out to Hilsinger to be the identity theft industry expert in his segment “How Do You Control Your Digital Footprint.”
In today’s world, our personal information is easier than ever for anyone to access. Where you live, where you work, your phone number, and even information about your relatives is available for free.
So how do you control your digital footprint? WLWT talked with an identity theft expert to figure out ways to lessen your exposure. One of the most surprising things we learned is that you don’t need to use the internet for your data to live online. Just like footprints in the snow, your digital footprint can lead anyone right to your front door. With a simple click, a crook could cause devastating damage.
“There are 3.5 million searches on Google every minute. There are 4.3 billion posts on Facebook every day. All of that information is being stored and sold,” Allan Hilsinger said. Hilsinger is the founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based Guardwell Identity Theft Solutions. He said that that is one way your data can be exposed. Hilsinger also said massive data breaches put your information in a digital wild west.
“The 80-year-old lady that never gets online, that shreds all of her documents, that has never given her Social Security number to anybody, she doesn’t have a social media account,” he said. “She doesn’t post pictures. She’s virtually as unavailable online as anybody, anywhere. She still may have shopped at Target. She still could have a credit file with Equifax. She still could have gone to Home Depot during their breach.”
Your digital footprint lives online and it builds a picture of who you are, with your name, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social media presence and more.
Websites we found like FamilyTreeNow.com and TruePeopleSearch.com reveal that kind of information to anyone free of charge. Hilsinger said that makes it easy for someone to steal your identity.
“They might buy a house. They might get a job. They might buy a cellphone. They might have a medical procedure,” he said.
Hilsinger said that while you likely can never scrub your data from the digital world, you can remove it from some websites by looking for the “Frequently Asked Questions” or “Help” sections.
“And we get toward the bottom and we’re going to stop here. ‘How do I remove myself from this site?’ In the paragraph, there is a ‘click here’ button. Once I click on here, I am navigated to a page that gives me the exact instructions on how to remove my information from this website. So I don’t have to worry about this website being an issue for me any further,” he said.
He also said people should use their web browsers in private mode, should stop sharing their location on their devices and should disable cookies.
If you do think your identity may have been compromised, experts like Hilsinger and his employees can help you navigate what could be damaging situations.
“We all, every one of us, have a digital footprint. We have to have an understanding that the more digital that we want to be and we become, the more risk of exposure and identity fraud and identity theft that we have,” he said.
Hilsinger’s company provides protection for families, including children, which is why he said getting protection before problems happen is important. He said that children are just as vulnerable to their data being exposed, and even identity theft, because they also have digital lives.