Protecting You Home Address
Separating your real name from your home address is extremely important. Home is where you and your family can be located, and anyone who Google’s your name may be able to find you easily. Most people’s home address can be found on over 40 different websites within a minute. This represents a safety concern for many people, especially those with a higher threat model like law enforcement, military personnel, or victims of violent crimes. Determine your threat model, and separate your name from your home in as many records as you possibly can. Stop using your home address to receive mail and packages and stop giving this address out to companies who will distribute it online (which is all of them).
Protecting your home address is actually quite challenging if you have been living in your home some time and giving your address out over a period of several years. However, it never hurts to start now with some basic steps:
- Immediately establish a P.O. Box or CMRA (commercial mail-receiving agency) and NEVER receive mail or packages in your name at home again. Use the address everywhere possible, including the billing for your utilities.
- When you pay your bills next month, OR any invoice from now on, make sure you do not share your home address, but instead use your P.O. Box or CMRA address.
- Place your home into a Trust wherein your name and address are no where to be found.
- Set up a privacy entity to hold title to your vehicles and other assets that would typically use your home address. If your state allows you to use a P.O. Box address for DMV Registrations, take advantage of that as well.
- Realize that if you can’t push the ‘reset button’ and move to a new address, the process is going to be, difficult and potentially impossible. Your address is in places you may never be able to remove.
- For qualifying public officials and law enforcement personnel, many counties will redact your name from property tax records. Check with your county if you qualify for this type of protection. This is extremely helpful if you can take advantage of it.
- If you are able to move or planning on moving in the future, make sure you implement a plan to keep that new address private in every possible way (one of the easiest ways is to start fresh and never give out your address in the first place).
- Basic rule of thumb: NEVER give out your home address unless absolutely necessary to a government agency, and even then there are even ways to avoid doing so.
- Stay committed and don’t give up. One slip and your whole process may be sacrificed because you forgot to send your cable bill to the alternate address.
The following links will provide more information on this topic. If you are studying The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference (LINK), this topic is covered in depth. Your ability to achieve the level of privacy you desire will be in direct proportion to your ability to keep your real name separated from your physical address.
How to Be Invisible, Third Edition: Protect Your Home, Your Children, Your Assets, and Your Life
The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference
Control Your Mail
Once you have started protecting your true physical address, you will be receiving mail at your new alternate address. Ideally, no mail should arrive at your physical address that has your name on it. Thieves routinely break into mailboxes and scavenge through mail to gather names, addresses, and other vital information to compromise your identity. Also, if you are receiving mail in your true name at your physical address, that guarantees that your information remains rooted in databases that will continue to sell and trade your information, further compromising your address. That information will undoubtedly make it’s way to people search engines as well. I receive absolutely no mail in my name at my physical address. Sure mail does arrive, but only marketing material that I have seeded using alias names.
Getting a handle on your mailbox will take some time, but the results are well worth the effort. Begin with opting out of some of the major data marketing services. Submit your requests, using an alias email address of course. A great list of data marketers can be found HERE with direct links to their opt out instructions. Below are some of the first ones your should target. Keep in mind that once you opt out, it will take about 90 days to see a dramatic decrease in the amount of mail you receive. This is because marketing lists are purchased 30-90 days in advance by companies who send your their material.
In an upcoming blog I will discuss strategies to issue “disinformation” about your address and name, which will further protect your true location.
Remove Your Home From Street View Photos
The fact is, you can type in almost any address in the country and see that person’s house, what cars are in the driveway, and, if their garage was open when the picture was taken, you can see any valuables that were inside the garage. You may also be able to identify security features of the home or a lack of security as the case may be. Since I am all about protecting my privacy any way I can, I personally had my home blurred out on Google Maps and I would encourage you do the same. “Hiding” your home on Google is very easy and here’s how to do it:
First, go to Google Maps and type in your home address. Once you see the picture of your home, click on the picture and it will enlarge and take up the entire screen. In the bottom, right corner of this screen you will see the words “report a problem.” Click on “report a problem” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can request to have your home blurred out. You will be required to state a reason for your request. If you are a law enforcement officer, you could state that “the photo reveals the location of a covert officer who’s safety is at risk”. If you are a civilian, you may state that “the photo reveals security features of the home that should not be viewable to the public”. Something along those lines should be sufficient to have the photo redacted. After you’ve submitted your information, you’ll get an email that says, “Thanks for submitting your Street View report. We’re reviewing the image you reported and will email you when your request is resolved.”
Google usually blurs the street view photograph within 48-hours. However, if you don’t hear back from Google I would check their maps in a couple of days to make sure they took care of it.
Microsoft’s Bing Maps will also blur the photo of your home by submitting a request in a similar manner. I suggest redacting your photo from both Google and Bing because those are the two most widely used services for street view maps.
One less tool people can use to stalk you or that criminals can use to case your home in the neighborhood.
I was discussing online information removal with a colleague today and a question came up regarding previous addresses. People search websites will most likely find and display several of your previous addresses while you search for yourself. Obviously the most critical piece of information you want to target for removal efforts is your current physical address. But what about previous addresses? Is it necessary to request removal or opt-outs for those as well? If an address is listed that you no longer live at, wouldn’t that be a good form of disinformation?
I also had this same question when I was in the process of removing data. It would certainly be easier to only target your current physical address and to leave the previous addresses alone. After all you do not live there anymore, right? Here’s the answer…whether or not you choose to remove previous addresses should depend on what your perceived threat level is. Think about your reasons for needing privacy and for not wanting to see your home address in public databases. Are you a law enforcement officer and are concerned about being targeted at home? If so, if your previous addresses are listed online that could represent a threat to the current occupants of that location. Removing them does not take much more effort, and it helps protect anyone who lives there. It also further removes real data that exists that is associated with you and your history.
I chose to remove any piece of information I could find on myself. The top priority was anything that pointed to my current address, and as I found historical information I removed that as well. Everything I found between present day and birth was removed to the extent I could. I prefer the thorough approach, but you will need to decide for yourself to what extent you want to go. There’s just something about seeing that “no results found” page that is satisfying. For me, information removal efforts have always been about two things; safety (due to an elevated threat model), and control over what the Internet knows about me.
Address Protection (Part 2)