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Special Report: Can you disappear online?

Special Report: Can you disappear online?

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When Manuel Franco won the Powerball jackpot last month, he became more than just a rich man.

He became a target.

Now, looking for any information about Franco online will prove fruitless.

"I got that paranoia that you get where you think the whole world's after you," he said at his celebratory press conference.

The young multi-millionaire also hasn’t shared any personal information besides where he’s from.

Franco’s lawyer, Andrew Stoltmann, has spent considerable time erasing all traces of Franco. He’s done it for other lottery winners too.

"I help make those people vanish," Stoltmann said.

Stoltmann says people who come into large sums of money can be vulnerable. They are targeted for scams, hounded by both legitimate and illegitimate charities, and constantly contacted by people who want money.

The disappearing Stoltmann facilitates starts easily enough.

"Getting rid of Instagram, off of Facebook and Twitter is extraordinarily important," he said.

But deleting social media accounts doesn’t dig out the roots of a person’s online presence.

Geoff Gardiner, a cyber security expert who owns Rescue Dog Technology, says major search engines will usually remove someone’s search results if requested.

Then he advises looking next at erasing email accounts, shopping accounts like Amazon or Macy’s, and anywhere else you may have given information over the years.

Gardiner says there are also data warehouses like Whitepages and Spokeo that probably know where you live, your phone number and how many people are in the house.

Getting off sites like that can be straightforward, but some require complicated multi-step processes.

“The digital trails that [individuals] leave are extraordinary and most people have no idea," Stoltmann said.

Completing the digital erasure process could take six months or more, according to both Stoltmann and Gardiner.

If going to such lengths is unnecessary, there are ways to limit exposure on the Internet.

Some tips include using a search engine like DuckDuckGo that doesn’t share queries with advertisers, browse with a VPN to disguise yourself on public wi-fi, and cut down on revealing social media posts.

"If you have children under 13, they shouldn't be mentioned directly by name,” Gardiner said. “You should try not to have pictures of them."

According to AVG Technologies, 92 percent of two-year-olds already have a digital presence.

"That information for children, particularly as they get older, is what the data miners look for," Gardiner said.

When it comes to safe posting, kids too need to know what’s safe and what’s not, especially on apps like Snapchat which are easily manipulated.


How to delete your Facebook

How to delete your Twitter: 

How to delete your Instagram

How to delete your LinkedIn

How to delete your PayPal

How to remove yourself from Spokeo

How to remove yourself from Whitepages

How to remove yourself from Intelius

How to remove yourself from PeekYou

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