Use Disinformation to Protect your Personal Information
Obfuscation as a Tactic for Protecting your Personal Information
This is the fourth part of our five-part series on Preventing Identity Theft & Doxing.
One of the best ways to protect your personal information is, of course, to never give it out in the first place (as covered in Step #3 of this series). But that’s not always practical and a bit like preaching abstinence.
However, you can also prevent the amount of your personal information available online by using inaccurate information whenever possible. When you do this, you use to your advantage the oversharing practices of data brokers and other businesses because, over time, their databases will start to become polluted with fake information.
After reading our series of articles, hopefully you are now minimizing the amount of personal information you share, whether directly or indirectly.
Of course, some pieces of personal information are more important to protect than others such as your home address or telephone number. However, sometimes you have little choice but to provide this kind of information. What to do?
For these times, we recommend you provide false information. This works especially well when no steps are taken by the requestor to verify the accuracy of the information you provide to them. A good example is loyalty card applications.
Sometimes having inaccurate information in the databases is even better than having no records at all! In fact, disinformation can be a very effective long-term strategy for keeping your personal information protected.
Warning! – Of course, we don’t want to behave like identity thieves ourselves! The techniques outlined here involve providing disinformation. That means information containing inaccuracies, discrepancies, errors or information that is completely fictitious. To always be on the safe side, NEVER use or borrow other people’s actual personal details or information. In other words, DO provide fake, made up and imaginary information, but do NOT provide real information about someone else.
This may all sound complicated, but a concrete example of how to use disinformation will show you how easy it is. For example, mix up the spelling of both your first and last names, and have a fake home address you can readily provide, when needed. You can either memorize these things or keep them written down on a card you carry with you.
Your date of birth and social security number should only be provided when taking out credit or when dealing with governmental agencies. Many businesses request your date of birth and social security number when they have no business doing so! However, if you say “no” you may often be refused service.
In these cases, provide an alternate date of birth (one simple technique that is easy to remember is to add (or subtract) 1 to the day, month and year of your actual birth date).
For social security number requests, use one of the example numbers reserved by the US government: i.e., 987-65-432X (where X can be any number from 1 to 9).
It is quite gratifying to start receiving offers in the post or in emails addressed to your false personalities. When this starts to happen you know that your campaign of personal disinformation is really working. 🙂
Identity thieves can do a lot of harm with little more than your phone number. You should heavily resist handing out your real telephone number and provide it only to people you trust.
For everyone else, including most if not all businesses, provide them with a fake phone number. Or use an alternate phone number. Online phone numbers are great for this, such as those offered by Google Voice or Skype Number as we discussed in Step #3 of this series.
A great approach is to consistently use the same fake phone number. This way, the fake phone number starts to become a great tool in your disinformation toolkit. The fake number will start to become associated with your profiles and help keep your real phone number private.
Having a fake persona (or a number of them) to use online is a great tactic for protecting your personal information. This will help prevent your personal information from finding its way into databases run by lousy businesses with lousy security measures or unethical information sharing policies and practices.
Plus, by using a fake online persona, if there is a data breach at a site or business you use, only the details linked to your fake identity will be compromised.
This may sound like a complicated technique but it’s actually quite easy. Here are the steps:
- For your false persona, think of an alias you’d like to use.
- Create and use a separate, alternate email account for each false persona. You can also make use of temporary email addresses for this purpose.
Top Tip – Keep your false and real personas as separated from one another as possible, remember to use your separate alternate email address when signing up for related accounts and services. The more compartmentalized you can keep your false persona from your real one, the better.
- Once you have a set of details for an alternate identity, it’s easy to save, keep track of and instantly call upon a persona whenever needed online by using free apps such as Dashlane or Lastpass. They are a great way to keep track of your false personae as well as all the details and online accounts linked to them.
- In addition to managing passwords, these apps can be used to set up and call upon separate “profiles” including all the online accounts, apps and passwords associated with a particular profile. They are a great way to save and use different identities in a consistent way in your quest to spread disinformation.
- You can also set up a separate alternate phone number for your false persona using a virtual phone number. You can set this up so that callers leave a message which is forwarded to your email as an attachment that you can listen to. You can even do this for physical postal mail too by using an online mail forwarding service such as EarthClassMail or Traveling Mailbox, as was covered in Step #3 in this series. For faxes, you can protect your identity by using Got Free Fax.
- Nurture your new persona(e) using these false details as much as possible, especially for unimportant stuff such as signing up for free online accounts and offers. You can even use these details offline too such as when entering surveys or signing up for loyalty cards.
- For online activities that require payments, you will usually not be able to use your fake persona because any credit card transaction will rely on your real name and other personal details. In these cases, consider using anonymous payment methods for online purchases.
Hopefully, with the detailed guidance above the process of setting up and using fake personae online is not as intimidating as it sounded at first.
This strategy can go a long way in safeguarding your personal information.