On Sunday morning I overheard an interview on Fox and Friends about a cell phone application that provides instant background checks for singles. At first I thought great idea; another tool to help our members. I finished watching the interview, wrote down some notes and then went online to find out more. Even though I would be promoting another company my initial reaction was to gather as much information as possible so I could share it with our members. After all, I’m here to keep you Safer in the City right?
But, all that positive thinking fizzled the more and more I researched the company behind the application, Intelius, and the application itself. Lets start with the company and mind you not much effort is needed to find something sketchy.
With just a quick Google search using the following words, “Intelius and scams”, I found an article in TechCrunch, from March 2009 describing a company swimming in consumer complaints and legal issues.
You’ll read that almost all of the customers complained of unauthorized monthly charges appearing on their credit or debit cards after paying for a one-time fee service on the Intelius site. Some even complained that the searches they initially paid for weren’t accurate and could not be used.
Now let’s explore the cell phone application that Intelius has just launched in October through iPhone, Blackberry and Android. There are five searches that are available to cell phone customers once the application is downloaded and this is where it got creepy for me. Although, I was okay with the first search called the “Sleaze Detector” which instantly checks for past criminal activity. But then I noticed the other four searches that instantly check for the following:
o Property ownership information
o Home details (bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, tax info)
o Assessed property value
o Birth Date
o Horoscope and astrological
o Social Network Info
o Professional Info
o Educational background
o Names and ages of relatives, associates & roommates living at search subject’s residence
Reading through these searches made me nauseous. My initial thought was what a brilliant tool for a criminal! With just a name, phone number or email address Intelius can tell you all this information INSTANTLY. Now I understand that some of this stuff is available online in some way, which is another problem, but starting in October it’s easier then ever to gather it in an instant one stop shop.
Does anyone else have a problem with some stranger learning about your property ownership, assessed property value and the names and ages of relatives living in your home? What does that have to do with dating? You would think marital status would have been number one on their search list but it was left out. I guess they felt learning the number of bedrooms and bathrooms was more of a priority then whether someone was married or single.
Now that we know this application is out there, here is some advice on what to do to block some of your information from being shared through this tool. Linda Criddle, the expert in my latest interview, “What the Fraud!”, talks about contacting local government agencies to request that your housing information remain private. Linda spent 13 years at Microsoft where she was a pioneer in online safety for mobile devices and PC’s for the MSN division. She advises that within your home town learn what is public knowledge and accessible through the internet and request that it be removed. Also, be sure to change the settings on your social networking sites so that only “connections” or “contacts” authorized by YOU can see your profile information.
To read about what Linda Criddle thinks on this new application go to her blog at ilookbothways.com.
One last thing… the tag line for this new application is “Look up before you Hook up”. You can say that again!
Until next time, here’s to keeping you Safer in the City!