Identity theft is a crime that can hurt on a number of levels. Besides the problems with credit ratings and personal finances that it can create, there is a definite social issue that is created as well. After all, not only can credit information be stolen, but so can other information be nabbed as well. Whereas the financial issues are relatively straight-forward, the affects of stealing someone’s identity can have very real effects in today’s world of social marketing, where a person’s reputation can help or hinder him.
Restoring your reputation comes down to three basic steps. First, you need to be proactive in defending your name. Every so often do a search and see where your name shows up. It helps to take advantage of the anonymity granted by the internet and use some sort of alias, especially if you have a common name. Not only does it make it harder to connect to you, but it’s also easier to search for. Also, use capital letters and numbers in your passwords, as well as symbols if possible; the complicated your passwords, the less likely someone can snag it. Also, pay attention to URL’s you frequent; make it a habit to glance at it quickly, and you can avoid typing in your login information on a site that looks familiar, but is actually a spoofed site.
The second step, and most important, is to go to your usual haunts and see what damage has been done. It helps to lurk a bit on discussion boards as well as check out where your personal sites. Once you have done that, talk the administrator about deleting the posts, if you can’t do so yourself, and to issue a formal apology for the situation, letting the other posters know what happened. This is important; you need to commit to damage control as quickly as possible if it’s to be of any use, and you need to let people know what happened if you hope to deal with the situation.
The third step is to go to several search engines and using your name as the search term. You need to see where your name has been used, and then how it’s been used. Keep in mind to try variations of your name, including misspellings you’re aware of and a few that look obvious. Bear in mind that you’re not going to catch all uses of your name, and that you should do the search for about a month or two afterwards (it can take a while for the spiders online to crawl through even major sites, and you need to track down as many uses of your name as you can). You then need to let the administrators of the site know the situation, and usually the situation can be dealt with.
By being proactive and knowing how to use search engines effectively, you can go a long ways towards keeping your reputation intact and not having to apologize for the actions of others. Better yet, you can see just how popular you’ve become throughout the web.