Unwanted phone calls and emails can be overwhelming; CEO Jason Volmut shares tips and best best practices to help you reduce spam.
Alan sells commercial real estate and he’s great at his job. He understands his clients’ needs and goes out of his way to make sure they are satisfied, and now has a lot of recurring business. As a result, he receives a lot of phone calls from referrals.
Everything was great until about a year ago, when Alan noticed an increase in spam phone calls. Since then, the calls have steadily gotten worse; now they have reached the point where they are outnumbering legitimate calls and resulting in lost business.
Over the last year, Alan tried following the basic internet privacy practices (listed below), but it didn’t stop the stream of calls. He’s at his wits end–what else can he do to stop the never-ending barrage of spam phone calls?!
Keeping Your Phone & Email Private: Basic Best Practices
Before taking a look at more advanced methods of preventing spam, let’s start with the basics. With phone numbers, you should start with your phone provider. Call your carrier and ask if they provide tools for blocking spam phone calls, and take advantage of them. You can also register your number for free with the FCC Do Not Call List. For more information on reducing spam phone calls, take a look at the FCC’s guides to stopping unwanted robocalls and to call blocking tools.
To reduce email spam, your first line of defense is typically your email platform. Check your email platform’s privacy settings, and ensure they are set for maximum privacy. Make sure that you are marking spam emails as spam in the program, to help the program identify spam patterns, and then deleting them. If your email provider’s spam blocking proves to be insufficient, you can also consider a spam blocking solution from a third party provider. Finally, consider unsubscribing from most online email newsletters, even if they are technically not spam, to reduce the chance of your address being sold to online marketing firms without your consent.
Outside of your email platform, try to avoid giving away your email address. If you are on Apple iOS, consider using the “Hide My Email” option in Mail and Safari; it generates unique, random email addresses that you can use to register online accounts. Avoid posting your email on social media. If you have a website, do not publish your email. Instead, set up a contact form to receive inquiries without exposing your email address. Finally, if the spam for a particular email address is truly overwhelming, you could consider changing your primary email address entirely.
Protecting Your Personal Identifying Information Online
Alan’s problem was that his information was being listed without his knowledge on data broker websites; like BeenVerified, FamilyTreeNow, FastPeopleSearch, Instant Checkmate, Intelius, MyLife, PeekYou, PeopleFinders, Pipl, Radaris, Spokeo, TruthFinder, USPhoneBook, and Whitepages, then spread widely.
Although people search websites that crawl the internet and index personal information without consent are among the most common types of data brokers, there are several other types of data brokers that you should be aware of. Some data brokers focus on building up individual profiles in the areas of finance or health, while others collect data intended for use in risk mitigation, marketing, or recruitment activities.
Google’s definition of Personal Identifying Information includes social security and tax ID numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, images of signatures, official records, login credentials, and personal contact info such as phone numbers and email addresses. To find out if your information is freely available online, you should search for yourself in Google, and in particular, search for your email address and phone number, to see if they are being indexed by the major search engines.
If you find that data brokers are indexing your Personal Identifying Information online, you should first contact the company and try to get the information removed. Next, you should contact Google to get the Personal Identifying Information removed from online search results, using the request form link available at this Google support page. Keep in mind that search results are not always updated right away, so you should do this even if the company indexing your information complies with your request to have it removed.
If attempting to manually remove all your Personal Identifying Information online sounds like too much work, you can consider using a data broker removal service like Incogni, to automate removal requests for over 180 data brokers. Incogni ensures that your data doesn’t get added again after removal. You can learn more at their website: https://incogni.com/.
Spam can be overwhelming, but with little time and effort you can significantly reduce the amount of spam you have to bear. If you are dealing with unmanageable amounts of spam in your organization, and want help in reducing it, contact us to schedule a cybersecurity assessment.