INFOGRAPHIC: The Lies We Tell on Resumes

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Did Jimmy Kimmel Steal our Map?

We’ve been huge fans of Jimmy Kimmel since the days of “The Man Show” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money”.  So we were a bit shocked when we saw the 3 minute bit Jimmy ran:

 

Notice that map? That’s our map:

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Hey Jimmy – What Happened to our Logo?

This isn’t the first time Jimmy has been accused of stealing jokes. Last month, Jimmy allegedly stole a whole bunch of jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Oscars. Judah Friedlander also accused Kimmel of stealing a joke.

So I guess we’re not surprised – just saddened. Jimmy literally took the extra effort and completely got rid of our logo or any mention of us.

Since this isn’t the first, second, or even third time, we made a little rap sheet for Jimmy.

Check it out:

 

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We’re not like Jimmy either – that beautiful, royalty free image was taken by Romina Espinosa. Romina, whoever and wherever you are, we’d love to hear the story behind that picture!

Finally – Jimmy and team: Our lawyer says we have a pretty good case. We’re still thinking about it. But we’ll let bygones be bygones if you and Guillermo  sing I’m Sorry, So Sorry  to the BackgroundChecks.org team. No need to ask us – just go ahead, do it, and upload to your YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Genealogy: The Complete Resource Guide

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Introduction

The maxim “know thyself” was well known among the ancient Greeks and to this day people still recite those wise words – especially when searching online for “how-to-genealogy.” Casually known as one’s family history or tree, genealogy is the study of family lineages and defined by the Society of Genealogists as the “…establishment of a Pedigree by extracting evidence, from valid sources, of how one generation is connected to the next.” In addition to helping individuals figure out their roots, genealogy can also offer a more-detailed view of their family’s role in the grand scheme of history.

While many people are motivated by the possibility of discovering that their relatives may have been wealthy or famous, it can be illuminating to learn about one’s own heritage and rewarding to pass that knowledge down to future generations. Genealogical information can bring families closer together, offer a new perspective, and guide future decisions. Best of all, it allows one to… know thyself.

The Practical Importance of Genealogy

Genealogy offers a wealth of information and sometimes its findings have a significant impact on people’s lives. Throughout history, kinship and descent often demonstrated legitimate claims to power and wealth. Although not many people these days have an official claim to an iron throne, there are still several reasons why outlining a family tree can lead to big life changes.

Medical History

It’s no secret that many health conditions and ailments are hereditary, meaning that they were transmitted at birth from one’s parents. For those who have been or could have been passed down a hereditary medical condition, preventative measures can lead to much-improved health. This is where genealogy can be a literal life saver. Studying family health history can identify the necessary steps to avoid harm. For example, someone with a family history of skin cancer can take preventative measures like staying out of the sun and loading up on the sunblock. Additionally, doctors use family medical history to determine the type and frequency of screening tests, make recommendations for lifestyle changes, assess risk, and identify other related conditions. In order to create and track a family health history, individuals can use My Family Health Portrait, a tool provided by the U.S. Surgeon General.

Legal Reasons

Being able to prove that you’re related to someone can also have significant ramifications in regards to taxation, land ownership, estate administration, and forms of inheritance. Additionally, when conducting family history research, there are many genealogy-related terms that may pop up on legal documents. For example, a “dower” is the share of a husband’s real estate to which the widow is entitled upon his death and a “relict” is the widow of a deceased individual. Navigating the legal landscape can be difficult without the help of a professional, but there are resources out there that can aid the amateur genealogist. One is the FamilySearch Genealogical Dictionary of Legal Terms and another is the paperback book Genealogy and the Law.

Proof of Lineage

There are various reasons for why family ties are severed over time, but fortunately, there are numerous resources available to individuals looking to retrace family connections. This may apply to the adopted who are looking to find their birth parents or mothers looking to find their children given up for adoption. Alternately, genealogical resources can be used to determine the biological father of a child.  

History of Genealogy

As mentioned earlier, throughout most of history, kinship and descent were often the impetus for maintaining genealogical records. Their primary role was to demonstrate legitimate claims to power and wealth, while heraldry was also used to track the ancestry of royalty through armorial bearings. In the United States, several organizations emerged in the 1800s that began to gather genealogical records, including the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Genealogical Society of Utah, which later became the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – and they eventually launched FamilySearch. Today, especially after the spread of the Internet, interest in genealogy has expanded largely due to access to resources, which range from websites to societies.

Getting Started

While all this talk of legal terms and genealogical societies may seem intimidating, one of the most efficient ways to research family history is to simply talk to relatives. Don’t be afraid to put pen to paper and start sketching out a family tree, because grandparents can offer a wealth of information. The key is to start at the present and work backwards. Relatives can offer invaluable leads that will fill in the blanks and save time. To keep track of collected material, you can employ a pedigree chart, such as this free one offered by Progeny. Or you can print out a family group sheet. Once you’ve collected all the information available and have your leads, you can begin the hunt for official records.

Types of Records

There are dozens of different types of records that can be obtained to shine a light on one’s ancestry, though the process can often be time-consuming. In order to properly organize a search, it’s important to figure out what type of information you’re looking for and where to access the related records. Relevant records may include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • Medical
  • Criminal
  • Birth and death
  • Immigration
  • Census
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Wills
  • Obituaries
  • Religious, such as Baptism or Bar/Bat Mitzvah
  • Military
  • Social security
  • Tax
  • Cemetery and tombstones
  • Voter registration

Reliability of Sources

When dealing with decades-old paperwork and online searches, it can be difficult to determine which sources are accurate. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help ensure information is authentic.

  • To start, begin research with your family (as mentioned above). Chances are much higher that your relatives have collected documents, photos, and memorabilia that pertains to your family tree.
  • Next, search for original sources. These are defined as the first recording of a document or event and can include facsimile microforms, photographs, unaltered digital reproductions, and the like.
  • Finally, derivative sources can also offer information but do not include original recordings. Derivative sources can include transcripts and indexes, as well as compiled records like local histories, books, and websites—all of which are compiled by a third party.

Tools for Your Search

There are many different sources for obtaining genealogical records and it’s important to cast a wide net in order to get the best results. Here are some ways for you to start your search.  

Local Library

Some libraries have entire departments or buildings dedicated to genealogical records. With the aid of a short list of names or a family tree outline, reference cards can get you the leads you need. Reference cards are often organized in a few different ways: by surname, geographical region, historical event, historical society, or local departments like the police or political office. Assuming your last name isn’t one of the most common, searching the surname will hopefully give you a handful of solid clues, possibly directing you to books, newspapers on microfilm, etc. Even a simple obituary can help fill in the blanks by sharing birth date and location, when or where a person moved, who they married, maiden name and marriage date, and the names of children and their locations.

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Ships’ logs may also be available. Most ships back in the 1600s and 1700s kept ship logs that with information about who was on the ship, where they went, and sometimes even what trade they were in and who they were traveling with. Local census records might help you find potential relatives, but won’t likely offer too much information. Some might provide townships or addresses, while others will simply list first and last names. Additionally, many libraries keep yearbooks tracing back to the 1970s, and some much further back than that. If you have a library with a thorough section, you might even find school records and photos from the 1800s.

Online Resources

The Olive Tree

The Olive Tree has links to many resources, including aforementioned ships’ passenger lists and census records. If you know that a family came over from a specific country, you can find a book of emigrants that lists anyone who left a country and it will often tell you the date and where they went. Some countries also have logs of immigrants that include when they arrived and where they came from.

National Archives and Records Administration

A great resource for U.S. residents is the National Archives and Records Administration, which is a federally-funded collection of public records. It is easy to use, though most searches point you to external links that source from various places on the Internet.

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com is one of the most well-known names in genealogy. It is a subscription-based service with a three-tiered quality option. It also offers an additional DNA Analysis service for a charge. Once you’re a member of Ancestry, you can link up with other subscribers in your family and share information with each other. The more you network, the more you can find.

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MyHeritage.com

MyHeritage.com is very similar to Ancestry.com and it offers an intuitive design that lets you build your family tree while suggesting possible matches along the way. However, it is also a paid service and it does not offer monthly payment plans. All plans are billed annually and a free trial is unavailable, so make sure you’re ready to make the commitment. The site also analyzes the data in your family tree and can show countries of origin on a map with clickable links to profiles. MyHeritage also offers a DNA collection kits and crunches data to show you things like which months were the most popular to be born in your family or the average life expectancy.

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Genealogy.com

Genealogy.com maintains a forum for people to connect, as well as searchable read-only versions of old articles. The family-tree maker service seems to have a few bugs but has clickable links to help guide you through connections others have made. Though it is not at its prime, the website does offer a great deal of information.

FamilySearch.org

One of the best free resources available is FamilySearch.org, still maintained by the Church of Latter-day Saints. It has a fully functional search that can very quickly pull up census records, ship logs, etc. By simply searching for a known relative, one might be able to pull up their family relationships as well as a photo of the census they are listed on.

Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is another great online resource. This website offers all sorts of wonderful materials that have been digitized and placed online. A brief overview of this resource is included in this video

If you’re not finding the records you were hoping for on other sites then you might want to consider World Vital Records. It is a subscription-based aggregation of 4.2 billion names that’s also a sub-company of MyHeritage.

Surname Index

Another potential resource is the Surname Index, a resource for anyone who might want to know the history of their surname. It is free and a not-for-profit operation, but it is not the most extensive resource. Because it began with its roots in Ireland, most of the entries stem from Irish surnames.

Find A Grave

Though it may sound morbid, a graveyard can also be a great resource for information. Generally speaking, families are buried nearby each other, some of whom are even listed on the same headstone. Photos and recorded details of grave sites across the country are compiled in the Find A Grave index. Each entry has a photo of the headstone along with any information on it.

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Of course, Google can be a very useful tool for research. To learn more about how to use it, check out this video:

Genealogical Societies

Local historical and genealogical societies bring people together to collect and reconstruct their histories. Societies are generally formed out of necessity by a group of people who have a certain trait in common, be that a historical event or country of origin. Sometimes societies require an application and dues to join, other times they are rather informal, but most are not-for-profit or charity-based. A well-known society is Daughters of the American Revolution, which has collected and pieced together an impressive amount of historical information. Additionally, the National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, and American Society of Genealogists are three of the major players and would all be great places to start. The larger and more prominent societies tend to offer things like conferences, educational courses, publications, and even special access to online genealogical databases.

Professional Genealogists

When you’ve exhausted your options, or perhaps just your patience, you might consider hiring a professional to help you continue your search. It may sound expensive, but most professional services use individual agreements between the historian and the person hiring them to agree on the terms of their search and the price. If you want to see what you can get for $500, there’s an option for that. Otherwise, sparing no expense to find out about a specific lineage has an option too.

Generally speaking, a genealogist will begin by interviewing family members and scouring historical records. Because they’ve done this for many years they understand how circumstantial evidence for kinship can be found and verified. They can easily turn to and cite sources so they can easily go back if necessary. It would be impossible for any one person to be an expert at the entire field of genealogy so many professionals focus on a specific lineage or region. If you know that your family has lived in one area for quite a while then it would be prudent to hire someone who is local to and specializes in that area. Keep in mind, however, that there is no standard of certification or licensing required for one to claim to be a genealogist. Check out these organizations for leads:

Heritage Consulting

Heritage Consulting specializes in genealogy story creation. Instead of hiring a genealogist specifically they work as a team to exact the details of your past and give you a comprehensive report. The price is per hour and the number of hours needed varies wildly between families.

American Ancestors

American Ancestors began as a project by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They offer collaborative reports or create lineage mappings. However, at $105 per hour, services aren’t cheap.

Association of Professional Genealogists

The Association of Professional Genealogists is probably the best place to look for a genealogist. It is, essentially, a comprehensive list of genealogists with a biography on each, including the work they’ve done, professional certifications, and even testimonials from clients.

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DNA Testing

Most of the major subscription-based genealogy sites offer DNA testing that could potentially help people decode their pasts, but they come with mixed reviews. When testing DNA, a vial of your saliva is used to isolate your DNA and map out over 700,000 genetic markers. There are a few different types of ways to test DNA; autosomal or X-DNA, Y-DNA, and mtDNA. Each tracks a different part of the DNA and can lead to different discoveries. Check out the following DNA-testing services:

Quick Links

Search Resources

Societies

Find a Professional

DNA Services

Videos

Which States have the Worst DUI Problems?

Spring is in the air. That means parties, barbecues, and of course, a lot more beer and drinking. While there’s nothing wrong with drinking, Drinking and Driving is still a major problem across the United States. We set out to see how bad it really is. Check out the map, then scroll below for our data!
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Concerned about safety issues in your community? Check out our home security resources for more information.

DUIs are going up in America. Over 10,000 people were killed  and more then 200,000 were inured in 2015  alone as a direct result of someone driving under the influence. We set out to figure out how bad drunk driving is in America, and the results are bad. To create a ranking of states, we took a combination of deaths directly attributable to DUIs, DUI arrests per 100,000 people, and drinking too much before driving, as reported by drivers themselves.  We then created a weighted formula. The results are below – let us know how your state did and what you think in the comments!

(Our data came from the CDC, and MADD, which aggregates state data).

The States with the Worst DUI Problems

Ranking, Worst to BestStateNo. of fatalitiesRate (of all total traffic deaths)Increase/Decrease from last yearDUI death rate (per 100,000)DUI arrestsDUI Arrest Rate (per 100,000)Percentage of Adults Who Reported Drinking Too Much Before Driving, 2014
1Wyoming560.38%16.7% increase9.563,1575391.4
2North Dakota500.38%9.1% decrease6.606,3518383.4
3South Dakota430.33%2.3% decrease4.977,3058442.2
4Montana750.34%2.7% increase7.193,6743522.4
5South Carolina3010.31%9.1% decrease6.0716,2723281.6
6Mississippi1750.26%1.7% increase5.866,8892301.6
7New Mexico980.33%16.2% decrease4.718,5424101.1
8Kentucky1920.25%12.3% increase4.3317,8254021.4
9Maine520.33%40.5% increase3.915,7564321.7
10Arkansas1490.28%9.6% increase4.996,9192321.4
11Idaho700.32%32.1% increase4.165,8443471.6
12Texas13230.38%8.5% decrease4.7564,9712331.8
13Louisiana2450.34%8% decrease5.235,3391142.2
14Wisconsin1890.33%14.5% increase3.2724,5884252.2
15North Carolina4110.30%13.2% increase4.0535,9673541.2
16Alabama2470.29%6.8% decrease5.087,8631621.3
17Arizona2720.31%36% increase3.9222,3673231.6
18Oklahoma1700.27%9% increase4.3311,1012830.9
19Tennessee2520.26%7.7% decrease3.7923,1503481.1
20Alaska230.36%4.5% increase3.103,1634261.6
21Colorado1510.28%5.6% decrease2.7325,5624611.9
22Missouri2240.26%9.3% increase3.6819,4493191.3
23Nebraska650.26%8.3% increase3.415,3482802.5
24Oregon1550.35%56.5% increase3.799,0192201.6
25Nevada970.30%4.3% increase3.307,6122592.2
26Pennsylvania3640.30%4.3% increase2.8544,6153491.8
27West Virginia710.27%15.5% decrease3.884,5432480.5
28Florida7970.27%14.8% increase3.8731,7831541.7
29Hawaii330.35%10% increase2.315,2503682.1
30Iowa780.24%14.3% decrease2.499,0282882.8
31Ohio3130.28%3.6% increase2.6934,2542952
32California9140.29%4.3% increase2.33141,4583601.9
33Delaware410.33%21.2% decrease4.31386411.7
34Michigan2670.28%25.9% increase2.6926,8452702.2
35Vermont150.27%87.5% increase2.402,1443431.8
36New Hampshire330.29%13.8% increase2.474,7463561.3
37Minnesota1150.28%6.5% increase2.0820,8303771.9
38Maryland1590.31%22.3% increase2.6417,1002841.8
39Connecticut1030.39%6.2% increase2.888,1482281.9
40Georgia3660.26%31.2% increase3.5519,2171860.7
41Kansas840.24%22.2% decrease2.897,1862471.4
42Washington1480.26%12.1% increase2.0324,6273381.9
43Indiana1780.22%11.3% increase2.6814,4282181.6
44Virginia2080.28%3.7% decrease2.4720,4772431.5
45Rhode Island190.43%11.8% increase1.802,5912452.5
46Utah430.16%24.6% decrease1.418,8132890.8
47New Jersey1110.20%31.1% decrease1.2422,2012481.4
48Illinois3070.31%1.7% increase2.403,659291.8
49Massachusetts960.31%32.9% decrease1.418,2581212
50New York3110.28%0.3% decrease1.5828,9881471

 

 

 

These are the Most Sexually Diseased States in the U.S.

Updated: October 5, 2017

Since we first looked at the data, the CDC has published new findings, with new data from 2016 available. It’s only gotten worse, but state rankings have changed. Read on.

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With the popularity of hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, finding casual sex partners has never been easier, but the increasing convenience of enjoying one-nighters has come with a cost: STD rates are surging in the U.S. like never before. Check out the full details and study below.

In alarming news for sexually active singles, CDC reports found that STD rates rose again in 2016, reaching an all-time high by topping 2015 figures, which previously stood as the worst year for STDs in the U.S. The problem is so bad that many experts are labeling the surge in STD rates a national epidemic.

In order to keep you informed about which areas pose the greatest risk, we compiled a nationwide ranking of states by the frequency of STD infection. This report was created by taking local county and state health data, social media surveys, and CDC data on the rate of incidents per 100k residents for the two most common STDs, gonorrhea and chlamydia, and calculating a weighted average between the two. The results may surprise you.

Compared to our earlier 2016 rankings, perhaps the biggest story from the 2016 CDC data is the increase in reported gonorrhea cases. The top ten worst states all experienced a rise in the rate of gonorrhea per 100k residents. In Alaska (#1), Mississippi (#2) and Georgia (#4), the rate rose by more than 40 per 100k, enough for Alaska to maintain its status as the worst state in U.S. for STDs, and for the latter two states to move up several positions in the rankings. The across-the-board increase in gonorrhea infection is startling, and many experts attribute it to the rising prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains of the disease.

Chlamydia rates also rose in most states, and remains the most common STD in the nation, which is often attributed to the fact that most people infected do not experience symptoms.

Some states were hit hard in 2016: Delaware’s (#9) rate of chlamydia infection increased by over 60 per 100k, enough to bring it into the top ten. Mississippi’s infection rate jumped by a whopping 91.9 per 100k, pushing it up to #2 overall.

Other states fared better, including North Carolina (#7), Louisiana (#2) and New Mexico (#5) which all experienced a decrease in chlamydia infections per 100k.

The state moving up the highest in the rankings is Maryland, jumping up six spots from #24 to #18, owing to significantly elevated rates of both gonorrhea and chlamydia. Next is Delaware, climbing five spots from #14 to #9. There is a four-way tie between Georgia (#4), Indiana (#23), Virginia (#25) and North Dakota (#26) for third greatest increase as they all moved up three places in the rankings.

Hawaii experienced the greatest drop in the rankings, falling eight spots from #20 to #28 due to a decrease in the chlamydia rate per 100k residents. Three states — Texas (#16), Tennessee (#22), and Michigan (#27) — fell four spots each, while three others–North Carolina (#6), Colorado  (#30), Vermont (#50) — went down three spots.

Significantly, thirty states either maintained their previous position or only moved one place in the overall rankings.

The Most Sexually Diseased States

RankingStateChlamydia rate per 100,000Gonorrhea rate per 100,000Weighted Disease ScoreFebruary 2016 RankingChange in Ranking
1Alaska771.6196.9484.310
2Mississippi672.1239.2455.742
3Louisiana679.3230.8455.12-1
4Georgia614.6201.2407.973
5New Mexico628.6168.6398.650
6North Carolina577.6196386.83-3
7South Carolina575.5187.8381.76-1
8Arkansas562192.5377.391
9Delaware567.2179.9373.6145
10Oklahoma548.4193.6371.08-2
11Alabama553.6173363.310-1
12Illinois561.4164.8363.111-1
13New York552.8146.5349.7130
14Ohio520.9176.4348.7151
15Missouri507188.7347.9172
16Texas520.4154.6337.512-4
17California506.2164.9335.616-1
18Maryland510.4158.5334.5246
19Arizona511.5151.3331.4190
20Nevada506.7151.5329.1222
21South Dakota504.5147.8326.2210
22Tennesee489.4154.2321.818-4
23Indiana466142.8304.4263
24Florida467.4138.9303.2251
25Virginia473.2132.2302.7283
26North Dakota456.5132.1294.3293
27Michigan462.9125.5294.223-4
28Hawaii482.1102.5292.320-8
29Wisconsin466112.6289.3312
30Colorado468.6109.5289.127-3
31Pennsylvania444.7114.1279.430-1
32Washington435.9114275.0331
33Nebraska432.3113.7273.032-1
34Kentucky413.2131.3272.3351
35Oregon432.5108270.3361
36Rhode Island467.367.8267.634-2
37Kansas417.6115.2266.4381
38Montana427.583.9255.737-1
39Minnesota413.293253.1390
40Iowa415.683.2249.4400
41New Jersey385.391.1238.2410
42Massachusetts394.573.3233.9431
43Connecticut387.476.1231.842-1
44Wyoming351.546.9199.2440
45Idaho356.338.4197.4450
46Utah315.770.1192.9460
47Maine312.633.9173.3481
48West Virginia261.449.8155.6491
49New Hampshire260.634.3147.5501
50Vermont269.920.1145.047-3

How to Survive Identity Theft and Fraud Online

125016_IdentityTheft_op1_092017

If you’ve never been a victim of identity theft, consider yourself lucky. Millions of people have had to fight their way out of serious financial trouble because of one wrong person getting hold of their personal information.

Identity theft is possibly the worst cybercrime of all, one that can easily destroy a lifetime’s worth of reputation, finances, and credit history, which can take years to recover from.

A 2017 study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that about 15.4 million consumers in the U.S are victims of identity theft in one form or another, with an estimated total of $16 billion stolen – and the numbers keep rising each year.

If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, this resource is your survival guide on how to gain back control, steps to recover from fraud and identity theft, as well as many useful tips and helpful information to protect yourself from being a victim of cybercrime in the future.

Identity Theft: The Facts

  • Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that about 7% of people over the age of 16 were victims of identity theft. That may not seem like a lot, but when you take into account that there were 242 million people over 18 in the US in 2014, that would mean over 17 million people were taken advantage of.
  • The bureau also reports that 14%, or 2.5 million, suffered financial loss from identity theft.
  • Women are more likely to have their identity stolen than men, at 9.2 million women compared to 8.3 million men.
  • When dividing by race groups, Caucasians have a rate of 8%, African Americans are about 5% – as are Hispanics. Incomes of $75,000 or more annually were targeted most, at theft rate of 11%.
  • 52% of victims reported they were able to resolve the issues in a day or less, but 9% spent more than a month working on fixing the damage done. 29% of victims that spent more than 6 months resolving problems due to identity theft reported severe emotional distress.
  • Surprisingly, children are 51x more likely to have their identity stolen than adults would be. They are vulnerable to someone who might try to manipulate them because they don’t realize the risk. The vast majority of child identities stolen are used to open credit accounts and to substantiate loans, often by family members or relatives. Parents usually warn children about sexual predators and being modest on social media, but what they don’t usually think about is people who might pray on their naivety online and get them to give up pertinent information that would compromise their identity security.

Statistics Around The World

  • According to NASDAQ, “Data breaches totaled 1,540 worldwide in 2014 – up 46 percent from the year before – and led to the compromise of more than one billion data records.”
  • 55% of breach incidents are from a malicious outsider who was intentionally trying to get in and steal information. 25% came from accidental loss and 15% came from a malicious insider.
  • The most hacked area was North America, accounting for 76% of the known breaches around the world. 72% occurred in the United States alone. The United Kingdom accounts for 8% of the breaches, Canada carries 4%, Australia accounts for 2%, and Israel and China both carry 1% of the burden.
  • As for credit card fraud, the United States only carries about 24% of the credit cards in the world, yet 47% of credit card fraud. Countries that have adopted the EMV or “chip” card have shown significantly lower occurrences of fraud. The United States’ slow adoption of the technology is suspected to be the reason their rate of fraud is much higher.

Identity Theft

Different Types of Identity Theft

Before delving deeper into understanding identity theft, let us first look into some of the common terminology used in reference to these crimes:

Phishing 

Misleading emails that manipulate people to enter confidential information. This could be someone pretending to be a bank representative, a health service or medical assistant, or even a credit card company.

Perhaps the most notorious incidence of phishing in recent memory was the 2016 hacking of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta’s e-mail account by Russian hackers. The email in question asked for Podesta’s account password, and was in fact spotted by an aide and marked as suspicious, however in the aide’s memo he made an unfortunate typo, writing that the email was “legitimate” rather than “illegitimate”. This costly error resulted in Russians gaining access to tens of thousands of emails which were the then handed over to the organization Wikileaks, who released the emails in calculated intervals over the course of the campaign, causing a public uproar and potentially costing Clinton the election.

Smishing

The same concept as phishing, but done through SMS or text messaging. This type of scam has grown more and more prevalent in recent years as criminals directly target people’s’ principal means of accessing the internet and email. A person may receive a text message requesting private information like a bank PIN number or email account password.  

Another common scam is a text tailored to resemble a personal message with a request to view the presumed sender’s social media account. Clicking the link will result in the user being directed to a hazardous URL where his or her information may be compromised. The results of smishing can be just as devastating as any other identity theft, as in this 2016 scam when three Santander customers lost a combined £36,200 ($46,772) within a month, money that the bank declined to refund.   

Wardriving

When someone hacks into a wireless network and installs spyware. This allows them to see what IP addresses are being used and what each device is doing, including personal information, usernames, passwords, and much more.

Surprisingly,  wardriving itself is not illegal in the United States, depending on the techniques used for one to gain access to a network. There is an active debate within the internet community over the ethics of the practice.

Keylogging

Software installed either by a hacker or virus that logs every keystroke done on a computer. This key logging software reports each keystroke to the person who planted the software and can easily be deconstructed to provide them your usernames, passwords, social security information, and any other personal data they find interesting. Keylogger malware is not very complex, yet it does not have to be in order to be effective.

In 2016, cyber criminals using the keylogger program Olympic Vision were able to hack into the computers of employees of companies spanning 18 different countries in Asia, the United States and the Middle East. With a technique similar to a phishing scam, the criminals sent emails posing as business partners requesting pertinent information, yet with the malware attached. Once the malicious software was installed, it used keystroke analysis obtain all types of confidential information and login passwords.

Skimming 

Devices designed to be placed over ATM and gas pump card slots that still allow the card to work, but also store the credit card information. When the person who placed it retrieves the device, the information of every credit card used during the time it was installed is then accessible by the thief. The thief then uses that information to create duplicate cards and make purchases.

The continued rise of skimming, particularly at gas stations, has prompted companies to update their payment devices with EMV technology, which reads a small chip inside the card, rather than the card’s magnetic strip. However, skimmers are still ubiquitous; typically found installed at small, isolated fueling stations at pumps farthest from the cash register.

Shoulder Surfing

When a person looks over your shoulder at an ATM or other place you may be using a debit card and entering your pin number. They can get your card account number and then learn your pin number by watching you enter it. From there, they would be able to use your debit account anywhere they want.

There is little concrete data on the frequency of shoulder surfing or the most vulnerable situations where one is susceptible to the practice, however a 2017 case study conducted by Media Informatics Group of LMU Munich, Germany concluded, based on a survey given out in the United States, Germany and Egypt, that the overwhelming majority of shoulder surfing involves strangers reading text conversations on the smartphones of strangers for the sake of boredom and curiosity without malicious intent or dangerous consequences.

Companies

In the first half of 2016, there were a record-breaking 621 mass data breaches reported worldwide. These are hackers who are attacking large companies and corporations, attempting to break into their databases and pull out any stored financial or personal information on their customers and clients.

  • Target – In 2013, the US store was compromised and 40 million credit cards were stolen along with 70 million customer accounts’ information.
  • Anthem – in 2015, they reported a data breach that had been going on for weeks. Someone had broken into their IT department’s records, potentially exposing each client’s name, birthdate, social security number, income data, etc.
  • Home Depot – in 2014, they were attacked via a vendor through their computer’s network and 56 million credit card numbers and 53 million email addresses were stolen.

Major companies may have better security but can also be a more tempting target for potential hackers because of the wealth of information that could be retrieved if they were successful. Obviously, the attacks on Target, Anthem and Home Depot were a huge pay-off for the hackers and a catastrophic financial nightmare for the companies and, at minimum, a significant inconvenience for their customers.

How Identity Theft Happens

Emails

So how does personal information get out into dangerous territory? 23% of identity theft begins with phishing emails. Potential scammers send emails posing as a legitimate business that a person may or may not already be associated with (i.e.: a bank or credit card company) and manipulate the victim into giving them pertinent confidential information. This release of information ultimately leads to their financial accounts and/or identity being used without their permission. A phishing email is usually recognizable because the sender is asking you to verify your information through a non-secure online source. Also, generally speaking, a legitimate business would not contact you through email if there were any sort of breach of security on your account; they would either call a customer directly and/or just shut down their card.

Websites

Sometimes, scammers will set up legitimate-looking websites that are really just a ploy to acquire the user’s information. This could be in the form of a merchant website online where the user thinks they are buying an item that they never receive and, instead, have their information stolen. Other times, the scammer will make a page that looks and acts just like a well-known or reputable bank or credit institution but with a slightly different web address. The user trusts the site because it looks like a real one, enters their information, and never hears back from the site, only to find out that their information was stolen and misused.

Third parties

In addition, many people don’t realize that large corporations and popular businesses routinely sell their users’ information. These companies are required by law to put into their terms and conditions that they are able to sell your information but very few people actually look into that information when filling out forms online. By selling that information to third parties, it opens people up to spam emails, mail, phone calls, and a whole host of other problems. In recent years, major companies such as Google and Facebook have come under fire for these practices and it has becoming increasingly difficult to avoid your browsing history being exploited for market research and financial gain.

IRobot, the company behind the automated vacuum Roomba, has recently courted controversy when details leaked that it may begin to sell the data gathered by higher end Roomba models in the process of cleaning a home. Roombas use these data about the location of furniture and household appliances to more effectively tidy up a room. However, experts speculate that a Roomba would also be able to determine information about owners private lives based on lack of certain household items, or, for example, the presence of a baby chair in the living room, and sell it to advertisers who would be able to target people with alarmingly specific offers catered to their speculated needs.

Phone

In 2014, 54% of people reported that their fraudulently used information was initiated by a phone call. Most commonly, a scammer will pose as a representative from a financial institution and tell the victim that they have had suspicious activity on their account and that they need to have the victim verify information. It is only later that the victim realizes that they’ve been lied to and that they basically handed over their entire security to a stranger on the phone.

Physical collection

Another way your information can be compromised is by physical collection. If you’ve ever lost your purse or had your wallet stolen or even left a credit card behind at a restaurant, you are in danger. Additionally, personal information can be acquired by dumpster diving or digging through trash to find anything that was discarded without being shredded. Most banks and doctors’ offices have policies in place where they are required to shred personal information, but it may not occur to people that their trash from home might be gone through either by people they allow into their home or predators who could dig through your trash bin out by the road before it is collected. Any acquisition of a physical piece of identification puts someone at risk.

Information accrued from items thrown out in the trash–whether it be a gas bill or a grocery list–can allow a scammer to learn highly specific information about a homeowner’s personal life. The thief can then use the knowledge in a very convincing phishing or phone scam.

This type of scam seem far-fetched and highly unlikely, but it has been documented:

Through the years, I have been amazed at the things you can find in the trash. There is big business for identity thieves in personal garbage. More importantly, once you put your garbage out on the street for trash pickup, it usually becomes open to the public. This means that if I am so inclined, I can take that garbage and bring it home, which is exactly what I did. Each week I would snap on my rubber gloves and go through every item of trash: grocery store shopping lists, sticky notes with phone numbers, a private invitation for a little girl to a friend’s birthday party, and much more. As I continued to go through the managers’ trash, I was able to compile a list of their service providers: water bill, phone bill, gas and electric, cable, and so on. I could use this information not only to gain access into their lives but, if I wanted, to take over their lives.

Ultimately, I decided to use the billing information for the bank managers’ Internet service providers as an access point for my attack. Using the information I gained from the bills, I contacted the managers and explained that I was from that company. I told them that we were updating our services and that, for them to continue to have Internet service, they would be required to install updated software. I explained that the software would be arriving within the next week.

Because I was also able to reference their past billing information during the call, the victims never suspected a thing. Within a week, they each received a package in the mail that contained “upgrade software” and instructions. One by one, the managers installed the software.

Of course, the software they had just installed was actually malicious and designed specifically to allow me to access their computer via the Internet from anywhere in the world. Shortly after they installed the software, I was on their computers going through all their files. Within a few short days, I had usernames and passwords to corporate systems and even VPN access, which allowed me to connect directly to the financial institution’s internal network.

Prevention Plan Checklist

There are a few warning signs that personal information is or could be compromised. If a red flag is raised, a lot of damage can be avoided.

Debit/Credit Card

  • Make sure that no one seems too close or nosy when entering a pin number into an ATM or other debit machine.
  • Turning the card reader away from prying eyes or shielding a pin code when entering it should be done every time.
  • If anyone seems nosy, wait and let them go first and then finish after they leave.
  • Beware of people snooping through personal documents at home or work as this could lead to a compromise of security.

Web Safety

  • Notice that there is a difference between https:// and http://. The “s” will tell you if the site is a secure, or encrypted, site. This means that potential thieves cannot easily pilfer information you provide on this site.
  • In addition, a secure site will show a picture of a closed padlock next to the domain name.
  • Check to see if the link presented to you in an email or text message is legitimate. Any text can become a clickable link but what it links to is obscured. Most popular browsers allow the user to hover over the link and it will reveal the true link at the bottom of the page or next to the link. This way, the user can see the link they’re presented with before clicking and accidentally exposing themselves to danger.
  • Another precaution to take is to enter the link into com which, “analyzes a website through multiple blacklist engines and online reputation tools to facilitate the detection of fraudulent and malicious websites”.
  • For shortened URLs, like bit.ly/ addresses, use Sucuri, which will expand the short link and search the actual destination link to make sure it is safe.
  • Do not click on any attachments in emails from unknown senders as they could automatically download malware software onto your computer that can be nearly impossible to remove.
  • Use trusted browsers that have built-in phishing protection. Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Edge are all designed to alert you of phishing websites before they are entered.
  • Any site that utilizes pop-up advertisements and has obnoxious ads should raise a red flag. These sites are usually created to generate income for the owner and more filler than actual useful information. Sites like these are more likely to be used for phishing and tricking the user into downloading malware.

Phishing

  • If anyone calls and requests personal information, immediately be suspicious of their identity. If they are truly from a bank, they should be able to verify your information to you, not require that you verify it with them.
  • If you did not initiate the call, you can’t be sure that they are being honest about who they are. A good way to check that they are able to confirm multiple points of information about your account, including current balance or recent purchases.
  • Avoid any ploy that is emotionally charged or tries to create a sense of urgency, especially where scammers might try to make you feel scared or vulnerable. This is the easiest way for them to make someone give up personal information.
  • Be aware that any emails that come to your inbox from an unknown user with an emotional plea for help is likely a scam. No, there isn’t a prince in Nigeria that needs help unlocking his multi-million dollar inheritance and needs your bank account information so he can reward you with a financial gift for helping him. While cultural familiarity with the old “Nigerian Prince” scam may lead one to conclude that it’s no longer an effective means of identity theft, the FBI reports that millions continue to be taken each year in such scams, and they come in a number of guises, so beware.
  • Check the email address from seemingly reputable companies. Generally, you will find a noreply@amazon.com or similar return email address. If the domain name after the @ symbol is not the corporation’s name, raise that red flag and proceed with caution.
  • When using Gmail, utilize the “authentication icon for verified senders” which will show a key symbol next to verified users. This should automatically be enabled with each account.
  • Be concerned if the “To:” and “Cc:” fields are addressed to multiple users. This generally means that random email addresses were generated using a computer and they’re just hoping someone bites on their scam.
  • Notice misspellings or improper grammar usage. Any legitimate company will not use poor grammar and punctuation. If it sounds fishy, it probably is. Oddly enough, the obvious misspellings and typos in an email are occasionally part of the scam. By ensuring that clever people trash the email, they are isolating the most credulous targets for follow-up emails.
  • Always check the domain name of the site you are on. If you think you are on twitter.com but the domain name is T V V rather than TW, it is likely a scam site setup to mirror a real site.
  • If an email claims to be from law enforcement and states that you are legally required to provide information, immediately call your local authorities. Law enforcement does not use email to contact people. Ever.

Strengthen Your Data Security

  • Be aware of which network you are logging into. People are susceptible of scams in public places such as coffee shops that offer open wireless networks as hackers often create “evil twin” networks with names that are nearly identical to those of the establishment’s to lure unsuspecting people into logging in and then stealing their information.
  • As a rule, avoiding malware in any form is integral to security. Malware is identified as any software that is intended to damage or disable a computer. Apple computers are generally regarded as safer from malware because viruses are harder to create for their operating system along with them being less appealing because they are less used globally than windows computers.
  • However, they are not impervious to spyware, which is software used to retrieve a user’s personal information by covertly stealing data from a hard drive. Installing a network protection program such as Norton Anti-Virus can block infected downloads, warn you about known social media scams and flag suspicious content. Regular operating system updates also protect against the latest spyware.
  • Using encrypted sites was mentioned in passing before but it is of utmost importance and needs to be remembered. If a website begins with http:// it is NOT encrypted and any information entered on it is subject to being public information. Only sites that begin with https:// are encrypted.
  • Alternatively, if you would like to take a more proactive stance at protecting online predators from getting your IP address, you could utilize a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, service.

VPN services mask your IP address and give you a generalized IP address from anywhere in the world you choose. Hackers won’t be able to use your IP address to access your confidential information any time you are utilizing this tool. Even better, it can be used on any computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone via a downloadable desktop application or smartphone app.

  • Passwords should be changed every 4-6 months, especially those linked to financial and medical institutions.
    • Use a complex and unique password, utilizing capitalization, numerals, and symbols wherever possible.
    • Also, passwords should not be the same across the board for every login.
    • As complicated as it can be to remember each password, there are mobile apps for smartphones as well as desktop applications that keep track of passwords for you.
      • One highly recommended one is called LastPass, which is available for Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile for free. It not only stores your passwords in a safe place but also has a strong password generator. It is integrated into your phone’s browser and will automatically fill in login details for you. Users can choose to generate new, secure passwords and it will automatically add or update their list for them. This makes changing passwords easy to keep track of. It also syncs with your other devices seamlessly, allowing family password sharing.
      • Another app option is called Keeper and is available for free on iOS, Windows Phone and Android. Not only does it keep passwords but it also can secure personal information and share it with trusted contacts directly from the app. It, too, has a password generator and can auto-fill login information. It offers iCloud backup and syncing for a charge but gives you a free 30-day trial.
  • If trusting apps isn’t appealing or if you don’t own a smartphone, you could also keep a written list of usernames and passwords in a secure location.
  • As technology progresses, more secure technologies are becoming available. This includes, but is not limited to, voice recognition, iris-scanning, and fingerprint recognition.
    • The fingerprint is already being utilized in iPhones, the HTC One M9+, the Samsung Galaxy A8, and a handful of others.
  • Even better, apps that allow purchasing or could benefit from added security are using the fingerprint software built into these platforms.
    • Already, Amazon.com, eBay, the iTunes store and many others are encouraging users to utilize the fingerprint in place of a password not only for ease of use but increased security. It doesn’t hurt that it is much quicker to press your finger to the sensor than to type a username and password.
  • Security extends far beyond the digital realm, too. Making sure that personal documents are shredded rather than just discarded is something most people don’t think about but should. If you don’t have a shredder, there are companies like UPS or The Office Depot that will shred documents for a nominal fee.
  • Finally, make sure you review your credit report annually. Under the FACT Act, Federal law allows you a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Make sure to run that report every year and review any flags for accuracy. Any incorrect information or reports can be disputed and an audit can be requested to review the information. Yes, it is time-consuming and often arduous but it is absolutely worth the effort. Each of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — offer a subscription service that allows you to check your score whenever you want but you can access your free reports by going to the Annual Credit Report website. This is a secure, federally-assembled website that asks you for your social security number so make sure you are on a secure computer and in a private place where no one might snoop over your shoulder while entering your information.

Recover Your Identity Checklist

Because it can be embarrassing to admit that you have been scammed, often times (and surprisingly) victims will let their pride get the best of them and will not submit a report – this what a lot of scammers hope for.

The Bureau of Justice reports that fewer than only 1 in 10 identity theft victims report the incident to the police.

  1. Acting quickly is integral to getting your identity back.
    1. The quicker you report it the sooner you can flag your accounts and avoid further damage.
  2. Have a physical copy of your accounts and credit/debit card information.
    1. Make sure it’s stored in a secure place. It’s important to have quick access to the account numbers so you can actively contact and report the lost or stolen cards.
  3. File a fraud alert immediately, even if misuse is only suspected.
    1. A fraud alert will bring up a notification when your credit is run and attempted uses will prompt verification of the user’s identity.
    2. This makes it more difficult for people to use your information, especially if they don’t have a copy of your driver’s license.
    3. You create the alert by calling one of the three major credit bureaus directly. It doesn’t matter which one is called because they are required to report the alert to the other two, saving you the trouble of calling each one directly.
    4. This alert will stay on your report for 90 days unless you call and remove it.
  4. If you are sure your identity is being misused, initiate a credit freeze with all of your compromised accounts.
    1. For this service, each credit bureau has to be contacted directly. A credit freeze is different from an alert because a credit freeze will make it so that banks and other companies that might open a line of credit will be denied access to your credit report, making it much more difficult for the perpetrator to open a line of credit.
    2. It is generally a free service but occasionally there is a nominal charge.
    3. When initiating your credit freeze, remember to request a copy of your credit report.
      1. Each bureau should give you details on how to obtain your report. Otherwise, you can obtain your credit reports online for free. Credit Karma is one of the most frequently used and trusted online credit report services in existence.
  5. File an identity theft report.
    1. This alerts federal and local authorities of the crime. This will give you the momentum you need to effectively fight any fraudulent charges and accounts.
    2. The first step is to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. This division of the government is set up to help protect consumers and combat fraud, such as identity theft.
    3. Once the report is filed online, they provide something called an Identity Theft Affidavit, which is good to print and keep on file for your records.
  6. File a report with the local police.
    1. Calling in advance is often a good idea so they can let you know what items you should bring with you to not only verify your identity but also substantiate the theft claims. Remember to request a copy, again, for your records.
  7. Contact each of the credit bureaus directly.
    1. Each fraudulent item must have a dispute raised with the bureau it relates to. It is also wise to contact the lenders and collection agencies that are involved. As tedious and time consuming as this may be, cleaning up the mess gets harder and harder as time passes. The more effort you put into shutting down the thief immediately, will ensure there’s less mess to clean up later.
  8. Keep a written log of which credit bureau, lender or collection agency you contact along with who was spoken to, instructions they gave, and what time the calls were made.
    1. Keeping these sorts of notes not only help keep track of all the steps that each company gives to resolve the fraud but also gives the victim leverage if later there is a subsequent fraudulent charge made despite the account flags and credit freeze.
  9. Contact the businesses at which your identity was used falsely.
    1. If you noticed that your social security number was used to rent an apartment, contact the apartment complex. If your credit card information was used on Amazon.com, contact them and let them know about the fraud so that they can cancel any pending payments or shipments.
  10. Once the mess has been cleaned up and you’re ready to open up your accounts again, ask to begin an extended fraud alert.
    1. Contacting each credit bureau directly will activate this service and it allows you to have a heightened security status put on your identity as well as access to two credit reports a year, as opposed to the one allowed normally.

Find Help and Support

If you’re overwhelmed, it’s understandable. It’s almost impossible to stay ahead of the new ploys conceived every day. It might be a wise idea to consider investing in an Identity Theft Protection service. Their job is to watch your back by monitoring new accounts being opened in your name and suspicious activity on your credit accounts. It can be expensive but it’s worth it. Which company you choose depends on whether your identity has been stolen yet or not.

  • If you have already suffered identity theft, you may want to consider a company like ID Watchdog ($14.95 or $19.95/month), whose primary goal is to help you recover your identity, even if the offenses happened before you joined their service.
  • If protection, before identity theft happens, is the goal, a company like Identity Force might be a good option ($12.95/month with a 30-day free trial or $19.95/month).

Resources

Honestly, one of the best resources that I have found is a compiled list of 87 security experts’ Twitter accounts. They tweet daily about the latest trends, news, and security concerns to be aware of. The list can be found here. You can follow them individually or choose to follow all of them at the same time.

Another useful list comes from Heimdal security, which includes over 50 tips and tricks from various security experts.

Below you’ll find more good places to find statistics and more in-depth information on identity theft and keeping security a priority.

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FreeBackgroundCheck.org Review, 2018

  • Price
  • Accuracy
  • Support
  • Interface/Features

Summary

FreeBackgroundCheck.org is a data-pooling search site that offers many types of specific searching with the goal of getting you information quickly and efficiently. The accuracy of the information, however, is questionable and I would advise any users to do a double check on the information provided just to be thorough.

2.5
User Rating 2 (4 votes)
Sending

Pros

  • There is an astonishing amount of results propagated by each search. The probability that you are going to find something on the person you are searching is very high.

Cons

  • Many of the results returned are duplicate and/or incomplete. You may have 5 profiles that refer to the same person with different information in them. They would all be partially correct but none would give a cohesive report.
  • Searching took a long time. Both the initial search and subsequent ones stalled or failed multiple times.
  • Shuffling through incomplete information and incorrect details can get very confusing and concerning, especially when in reference to confused criminal and sex offender records! This is particularly important when you are searching someone you don’t know; You might not know that the information you are receiving is incorrect and that could influence you to make decisions that would be unfounded.

Meh

  • You were able to search many different ways, directing you to specific results that you may be interested. This could be helpful if you are desiring a very specific bit of information.
  • I also found it to be a little disconcerting that my IP address for multiple email addresses was provided. I can’t come up with many good reason why this information should be presented so readily.

Who is FreeBackgroundCheck.org?

I recently had to start over in life after a divorce and, though I had a home, I needed a new roommate. I put a few ads out on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. and got a handful of hits right away. I was particularly intrigued in a gentleman who responded to me through Facebook; I was able to look at his profile and could tell that we had quite a few things in common. I decided, just to be safe, to do a background check on him to make sure I wasn’t letting a creep into my home where my children would be coming to visit.

After a little online searching, I found FreeBackgroundCheck.org and it seemed like a very straightforward site with lots of search options so I gave it a try. My first clue should have been that I could not find any information on the site as to who the company behind the site was, where they were located, or how they started. Most companies will have an “about us” section where they proudly tell you about themselves and how they came into the business. I could not find anything about the company at all, even by searching on popular search engines.  

FreeBackgroundCheck.org Pricing and Available Plans

When signing up, I was offered 3 levels of access: 1 month of unlimited searches for $19.95/month, 1 week unlimited for $4.95, and just a single report for $29.95. I had a few people I could search if this gentleman wasn’t going to work out but I knew I would be making a decision within a week so I chose the 1 week option.

Nowhere on the sign-up does it say that the payments will auto-renew but I assumed it would, as this is how most of these sites work. I looked at my account and it showed my 7 day purchase and now listed it with the term “Trial” next to it. So, I dug into the Terms & Conditions and saw that it was a recurring charge unless you canceled the subscription. So, essentially, every 7 days it would charge me another $4.95 if I did nothing. I am pretty good at remembering to follow through on things like that so I decided it would be ok.

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How to Use FreeBackgroundCheck.org?

My initial search took quite a while. I was willing to wait, though, because it showed that it was searching in many areas.

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When the search was complete, it returned 54 results! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad in my situation, though. I don’t know much about this person other than the information I can find on their Facebook profile that they used to contact me. Because I only had his name and birthdate, I looked through the list to find people that were about 29 or 30 years old. Quite a few entries were returned without a birth date but one entry said the man was 29, which would make him most likely to be the guy I was looking for.

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I didn’t know any of his relatives or locations so none of that information was of much help to me but I could see how that might make a huge difference for others.

The report generated very little information. There were minimal details given beyond his name, date of birth, age and address.

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It gave only one address for him and then listed 3 sex offenses. This immediately caught my attention and decided to look further into these. The link was clickable but only brought up his profile again; it did not give any information about the offenses themselves.

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Below, there were two death records listed but upon looking deeper into them I realized that they were both for other people who had been much older.

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5 email addresses were listed but 4 of them were associated with someone at a different address and the person had a different middle initial. The 5th result was, again, associated with a different address and I did not have faith that it was correct.

That is it, honestly… It didn’t give me any more information than that. So, I decided to look at other people that might be him. I asked the gentleman coyly where he was living currently so I could send him a lease agreement to review and he gave me his address. I used this information to make sure I had the right person and was surprised to find that it actually was the correct address but that it was tied to three separate profiles, one with the correct birth date, one older person and one person with no birth date listed.

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I checked each profile out individually and the one with no birth date listed 90 (Yes, 90!) traffic violations, most of which were duplicates. It also listed the same 3 sex offenses and email addresses as the original profile. The older gentleman, who I would assume is my guy’s father, gave 5 addresses but listed the current address as the same which would suggest that my potential roommate was living at home with his parents at almost 30 years old. That doesn’t really bode well with me because I would assume he isn’t paying rent there and might not consistently pay me on time. The older gentleman’s profile also listed the same 3 sex offenses and 5 email addresses.

It was at this point that I decided to look into the sex offenses to see if it was even the correct person. Upon searching the state’s sex offender registry it turns out it isn’t even remotely close to the same person, having been born at a different time and living at a different address than any listed for either person. This is concerning because if someone was not diligently checking into the validity of the information provided they could easily accuse someone wrongly of a very serious crime and potentially really screw up a relationship.

I did find it nice that there was a menu on the left of the page that would let you search specifically for criminal records, arrests, court records, sex offender, and many more. If you were looking for specific information, this could be very helpful. All you have to do is click on how you want to search, put in the name and it brings up a bunch of results.

It also lets you search by phone number and address in case you didn’t have someone’s name and just that information. To test its accuracy, I searched my ex wife’s address and, though the house was in her name alone, it lists that house as owned by me and that I am married and the current occupant. That has not been my residence since we split 5 years ago.

How Good is FreeBackgroundCheck.org Data?

I had become very skeptical so I decided to check the validity of the rest of the information being provided by checking my own report. Four results were returned and all four were incorrect. They were someone in a different city with a different middle name and I was nowhere to be found.

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I tried, instead, to search my maiden name and that finally returned some positive results. However, none of them were fully correct.

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The most correct one listed an old address as the current and then listed two phone numbers that were landlines not connected with either address. It also listed 4 email addresses, 2 of which were incorrect and none of which were current and valid. This is only concerning because I currently have 6 active email addresses that I use on a regular basis for both business and personal effect and they are no secret online and on my small business’ website. The fact that they were not picked up shows a lack of information being reported.

How do I Cancel FreeBackgroundCheck.org?

I decided to immediately cancel my subscription. I didn’t feel like anything I found was trustworthy which made it pointless to search other candidates. It also made me feel like the company itself might give me trouble cancelling which was, sadly, the case. When I had looked up the Terms of Service previously I had noticed a link to cancel the subscription. I followed that link and was directed to a “Send Help Request” with a drop-down menu to choose “Account Cancellation” from. I added comments to let them know I wanted to cancel and then waited for an email in response.

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The next day, I received an email apologizing for the lapse in reliable information, confirmed cancellation and assured me that I would not be charged further.

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FreeBackgroundCheck.org Final Thoughts

Though FreeBackgroundCheck.org returns a wide variety of information, I did not find it to be accurate or reliable, which is very important to me. When it comes to background checks and sexual predator histories, it is important to be sure that the information you are being presented is linked with the correct person.

I was not able to get the information I desired from this search so I ended up having to sign up for a different search site that came much more highly recommended. At the end of the day, I only spent $4.95 so I wasn’t too upset about the financial loss. Lesson learned!

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TruthFinder Review, 2018

Our Truthfinder Summary:  Out of all the various background check services we've tested, Truthfinder is the most accurate and offers some of the best data out there.

TruthFinder Overall Rating:

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Pros

  • Content, content, content! There were so many sections with information, direct links to social networks, and contact information.
  • All of the information was well organized and easy to find, with a navigation menu to help you get where you want to go quickly.
  • Not only were the social media links provided but they were expanded upon, showing recent content, user IDs, and profile picture.
  • The search produced information that went back over 15 years.

Cons

  • There seemed to be a few small incorrect links to social media as well as email and phone records but they were rather minor.

Meh

  • There were some pertinent bits of information that were left out, such as my schooling and various forms of contact.

Who is TruthFinder?

I stumbled upon TruthFinder.com as I was searching for answers. I had fallen out of contact with a good friend of mine when she moved across the country just after high school. I heard she had moved to California and started her family in Los Angeles but beyond that there wasn’t much known about her. I was going to be visiting Los Angeles for a business trip, so I decided to try to find her so we could connect while I was out there. When I searched Facebook, there were entirely too many people and no way to know which was her. I knew I needed help searching so I went looking for a really reputable site that could help. I found TruthFinder.com to be the best option.

As it turns out, their home office is located in San Diego, California. They’re a relatively new company, starting out in the spring of 2015, but perhaps that worked to their advantage. They seem to be focused on acknowledging information found in social media and making the most of the ever-expanding web of content and information that is available online. They make a point to let you know that they are keeping your information as well as your searches confidential, which is not something you find very often online these days.

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I decided to search for my friend and it gave me a list of a few people who would match my search, each showing age, relatives, cities lived in, etc so I could choose the right person.

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Once I chose my person, it did a very thorough search of any possible online resources, including social networks!

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TruthFinder Pricing and Available Plans

The pricing and package options were very straightforward; $27.78/month if you wanted to take your subscription one month at a time or you could choose to start with a 3 month subscription for $23.02/month but you have to pay the 3 months ($69.07) up front. There were not confusing trial periods or hidden charges. They told you exactly what you received for the price and let you choose if you wanted to continue or not. I was able to view a sample report directly on the site and it gave me confidence that it would return the information I was seeking and help me locate my friend.

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Once I got my report, I was very impressed! It gave me an incredible amount of information and it was almost like I was able to trace her life like a storyline from when she moved from Michigan and where she had gone since. There were still a few details I wanted so I decided to upgrade to get a complete report, called a “Premium Report Upgrade”.

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It gave me access to additional details like business associates, professional licenses, corporate affiliations, prior addresses, properties owned, etc. for $17.47. I decided that it was worth the small cost and, with this additional information, I was able to track my friend down quickly!

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In case you are intimidated by the price, they offer the opportunity to invite your family and friends to join and when they sign up you BOTH get a free premium report credit.

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Also, for $2, it gave you the option to download reports as a .PDF file to your computer so that you could keep it stored or print it out. I opted not to do this but it was not much of a cost for an option that could be very convenient for some people.

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How to Use TruthFinder?

The TruthFinder report I received is by far the most comprehensive collection of information I have ever received. It is easy to understand, has a very direct menu of sections on the left that will bring you where you want to go, and it doesn’t make you click 100 links to get to all the information but, instead, organizes it neatly for you all in one place.

When you first open up the report, you are given step-by-step navigation to help you get around quickly and concisely.

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Your “home page” is very nicely organized with the search bar at the top asking you simply for first and last name, as well as your state. All of your previous searches are saved below in a column that allows you to sort by most recently viewed, name, age, etc. There are quite a few applications where this could be very helpful.

When you open a report on someone, they not only list their name but also their birthdate, age, astrological sign and any known aliases. This proved to be the first step I needed in finding my friend. I realized that she had gotten married somewhere along the way and her name had changed, which explains why I didn’t find her on social media under her maiden name.

Directly below that, it matched possible pictures of the person which help you make sure you’ve got the right person. It had been 20 years but her face was the same and I could see from the pictures that she had children and grandchildren!

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Her jobs throughout the years were listed as well as her education, from undergraduate to graduate degree work at various universities across the country. Not only did it list the school but it went as far as to tell you the degree area and the dates attended.

Relatives from both her family and her husbands were listed very clearly and each one gave basic information on each person such as where they lived and how old they were. Each one also had a link to let you look directly at their report and showed a drop-down list of each of the relative’s relatives. Once again, above and beyond what I expected.

I was absolutely blown away by the list of related links that I was presented with. Every type of social media I could come up with was listed and even some I had never heard of. I was able to directly connect via link to her Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, etc. Essentially, anything that she had been directly tagged in was listed.

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What was most important to me was the phone number section. It provided every phone number she had been connected with throughout the years. Most sites only give you the number but this told you who the carrier was, if it was a landline or cell phone, if it was prepaid, the location, and whether or not it was connected. It gave me 4 options, one of which was listed as current and connected, and I was able to call and be directly connected to her. Now, I’m not shy but if you were trying to be a bit more discrete or cautious you could utilize the email address section and possibly shoot off an email quickly.

Previous addresses were also listed; basically, anywhere she had received mail at in the last 20+ years was shown. From businesses to home addresses, each was labeled as to its usage (business, residential, PO Box, etc) as well as whether or not it was deliverable and currently receiving mail. A map was very clearly displayed and let you see a visual representation of each location. The map was interactive and let you zoom in and out for perspective but I wish it would have enlarged so you could see it better.

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Nearer to the bottom, it listed criminal record, driving infractions, and sex offender registration for both the person you’re searching as well as in relation to each of the addresses they were linked to.

As if that wasn’t enough, it also went into detail about her astrological sign. It told me things I basically already knew and offered me a compatibility test so we could compare our signs and see if we might someday fall deeply in love. As the likelihood of that is slim to none, I disregarded it. However, for someone who was searching information on a lover or someone they met on an online dating site this could be very helpful.

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I did notice that they offered an Android app but, since I do not have an Android platform phone, it was of no use to me.

What I did find very interesting was that at the very top of the page you were asked to review the information, rating the quality of the content with a 5-star rating system and it also allowed you to flag the report as inaccurate. I would assume that this would be most helpful when researching one’s self.

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How Good is Truthfinder Data?

It was the information review that piqued my interest initially to search myself but I also wanted to make sure that the information I was getting on my friend was trustworthy. Not only did I search myself but I got a little carried away with friends and relatives. The unlimited searching can be a little addictive!

For the most part, the information I found about myself was accurate. It did not list a current phone number for me but it had about half of my email addresses and most of my social network information.

The LinkedIn section was very clearly off and I am assuming that it somehow linked to another person who has the same name as me, though that is uncommon. Because of that, my education background and work history was incorrect. I do not have a LinkedIn account so perhaps that is where the issue stemmed from.

I was incredibly taken aback at the amount of information the search on myself had amassed. I guess I didn’t realize how much of my information was being made public by social media venues. It even had a car accident that I had been in back 10 years ago because it had gone to court. It showed everything – the municipality in which the accident occurred, the date, the court case number, offense type and description, plea, status, and the final outcome.

All in all, I would say the information provided was about 80% correct.

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How do I cancel TruthFinder?

When I had made contact with my friend, I decided to cancel my subscription. I remembered at the sign-up I had been given a phone number to call so I went to search for that. To my surprise, under Your Account / Membership Settings it gave me the option to cancel online. It gave a quick drop-down list to select why you were cancelling the service.

I submitted my option and was then offered a discounted rate of $9.97/month to continue my account. I did not have any use for the service so I decided against it but it was very tempting.

Once canceled, it confirmed and said that I would still have access to my canceled subscription until the end date so I was able to continue throughout the month I had paid for.

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TruthFinder Final Thoughts

All in all, I was very impressed and quite happy with TruthFinder.com. Not only did it find the person I had failed to find through multiple other venues, but it gave me a wealth of information and ways to contact her. It was easy to use, well organized, and an overall very pleasant experience. I ended up paying just about $30 to find a long lost friend and it was absolutely worth every penny. We were able to connect while I was in town and this has changed both of our lives going forward.

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  • Price
  • Accuracy
  • Support
  • Interface/Features
4.8
User Rating 3 (1 vote)
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