As we have discussed before many websites offer a quick online method to remove your personal information found on their site. Others make this process a little less convenient by requiring you to write a letter which can usually be sent in via fax or snail mail. Within the past year, I have noticed that occasionally a website will ask to ‘verify your identity’ by requiring you to provide a phone number before they will process an online removal request. A tip for handling this type of opt-out is the subject this post.
An example of a website that now requires a phone verification is WhitePages.com. Once you have located your profile on their site, there is a link at the bottom of the page called “Remove My Information”. When you follow that link, you will be asked to enter your name and an email address. The site will send you a verification email link that you click which sends you to the removal process. The next screen allows you to paste the URL to your specific profile that you want removed. So far that online process is pretty standard, however the next step may cause you to pause for a moment.
After entering the URL you want removed, the site asks for a phone number to verify your identity. According to the instructions, entering your phone number ensures that you are the person who is authorized to suppress the profile you have submitted. The website will place an automated call to the number your provide and ask you to enter a verification code into the browser to verify that you received the call. Your profile will them be suppressed from view.
Entering a phone number for this verification mechanism may cause a concern for some people. This is especially true if you only have one phone number, like many people do. I recommend having several phone numbers available at your disposal for different purposes, including phone verifications of this type. In a previous post I gave some examples of how you may set up a phone capable of utilizing multiple phone numbers. Even if you just have one “alternate number” that is not associated with your real name, it could be used for verification calls or texts from websites during your removal efforts.
A coupe ways to set up an alternate phone number for yourself would be to use Google Voice or a free service like Flyp. Both services provide you a phone number to that can be used to make and receive calls. They utilize their respective apps on your phone and are a great way to keep your real phone number separate from business you conduct with your alternative number. If you use an alternate number for verification purposes, I recommend having one set up that you only use for this purpose.
There are many services, both free and paid, that will allow you to have an alternate phone number. The two I mentioned above have been reliable for removal purposes, but you might consider setting up a more robust system for yourself with additional features for privacy reasons. Either way, you now have some additional tools to help you with phone verifications when you don’t want to share your real phone number with a website that may archive that information, forever associating it with your profile.