Be wary of personal info on people-search websites

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Officials are cautioning employees and their families to be aware of websites like www.truepeoplesearch.com and https://pipl.com that raise safety concerns over the amount of personal information available for free to anyone who does a simple web search.

Information ranges from full names, ages, current and past addresses, phone numbers, email accounts, and names of relatives and acquaintances.

With mottos like “Create the most powerful people search service in the world and give it away for free,” websites like True People Search make it sound easy to find old classmates or lost friends. But such sites are actually a treasure trove for cybercriminals looking to steal someone’s identity, said Matthew Baker, operations security program manager for DLA Intelligence.

“Sites like these make it easy for anyone with nefarious intent to gather information and do you and your family harm. That can include criminals, stalkers or terrorists,” Baker said.

In some cases, thieves can get all the information they need to steal a person’s identity and victims don’t know their personal information has been stolen until they suffer adverse effects, like receiving bills for purchases they haven’t made or discovering someone has used their personal info to create a phony social media account. These may be the most common dangers, but military and government employees should be especially cautious about personal information available on the websites like True People Search.

“We have seen in the past where terrorists publish ‘kill lists’ of military, government and law enforcement personnel with the information they mined from the Internet,” Baker said.

Employees can protect themselves by doing an online search of their name and the names of family members, then follow instructions for removing their data or opting out.

“People often think about preparedness in terms of more physical undertakings, but it’s also good to think about your online profile and how the information available can put you and your family at risk,” Baker added.