Hello ACSOL community. This is Free Again (a.k.a. Anonymous OP a.k.a. Newly Liberated…I figured that the second screen name will eventually no longer apply once enough time has passed, so I changed it once again). As I had mentioned under the previous CoR post, I am contributing this new follow-up post that will focus solely on cleaning up your online reputation once you have been relieved of your duty to register. Please note, however, that there are some websites from which you can opt out whether or not you’re currently registered, for whatever that’s worth.
Some of you may have been wondering if this post will ever materialize as it has been a few months since it was last mentioned. Well, the reason it has taken a while is because it’s a somewhat complex process. I chose to do this myself rather than hire a service to do it on my behalf. It required a little patience, but I feel it was well worth the effort as I acquired some invaluable knowledge in the process. Not to mention that I’m growing increasingly more comfortable with giving others my real first and last name when introducing myself both on a personal and business level. And while all of this has been transpiring potential opportunities have emerged that may catapult my career in the foreseeable future. Once that happens I may find little time to post here again, especially detailed information such as this. So I figured now’s as good a time as any to share what I’ve learned. Hopefully the following will be of use to those of you who are on the same path.
Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list of all websites in these categories. I only targeted the most popular sites used here in the U.S. according to my research, or ones that I found myself on when searching my name. I recommend that readers check back here since I may add some new information as it comes down the pipeline. If you have questions or additional thoughts on any of the subjects mentioned herein, or would like to share your own experience on the topic, then please feel free to post them below. Again, I am not an attorney and therefore cannot dispense legal advice. I’m a former registrant who’s here to help those who may be dealing with situations similar to my own.
NOTE: to be able to remove yourself from most of the types of websites I’m about to cover, it is most ideal to get yourself BOTH the expungement and Certificate of Rehabilitation, and of course have yourself removed from the registry and obtain the letter from your state’s DOJ confirming your termination from the registry in case a copy of it asked for as proof. Some sites will ask for one or more of the above in order to be removed.
START BY SEARCHING YOUR NAME ON GOOGLE
This is what I did at the beginning only because it’s what most people do if they want information on you. Most of the search results were websites that only disclose basic information and charge fees for other details such as criminal background. But when I switched to an image search on Google, well that’s when more directly damaging results came up, specifically from sites that list SO’s. I did the same on Bing, which is now the same search engine as Yahoo. I’ll go more into clearing up searches on your name after all the other work is done.
RECORD REMOVAL SERVICES
Some other members of this community and I briefly touched on this topic in the CoR threads. There are services out there such as Record Gone, Guaranteed Removals and Reputation Defender who for a fee will clean up your online reputation. Are they worth it? After doing a little digging, I came to the conclusion that it really depends on your ultimate objective.
I contacted Record Gone a couple of times, left my number with the person who answers the calls, and got no return call whatsoever. All I wanted was to discuss my matter and get a quote, but I guess they weren’t interested in my business. The video on their home page explains in detail how your information is found online and how they would proceed to clean it up. The gentleman tells you how there are hundreds of background check sites which they would scrub clean for you.
Now, there are a couple of issues I have with services like Record Gone. In the next section below which covers these services I explain one very important detail which they conveniently leave out of their video. Aside from that, there are other questions that came to mind. Do they contact each individual company? There are sites other than background check sites that contain criminal records, such as people search and mugshot sites. Do they remove you from those as well? Will they also remove you from searches on Google, etc.? And lastly, will they help maintain your reputation down the road after the initial removals? Make sure to ask these removal services all of these questions before handing them your money. The results may not be as thorough as you might expect.
BACKGROUND CHECK SERVICES
So for these I started with searching on Google the “most popular background check companies” and scrolled down past the ads to examine the top results of the search
Here’s one very important thing that the Record Gone video neglects to mention. After calling and speaking to some of these companies I found that not all of these services store a database which they update annually, as the Record Gone video suggests. Rather, when an individual or company uses these sites to check someone’s background, the service in turn simply refers to current court records, etc. In other words, the information they obtain on you is the most current available. A couple of popular background check sites that operate in this manner are crimcheck.com and goodhire.com. GoodHire is affiliated with Inflection and used by Airbnb for background checks on its members.
For the sites that do use a database system, you will likely need to purchase a report on yourself to find out whether or not it’s current. If not, then you can inform the service that it needs to be updated, and they will guide you through the process.
Also, as with other types of websites detailed below, certain background check companies that do keep a database are owned by a parent company (another vital piece of information that Record Gone neglects to mention).
One such company that appears to own several of these sites is PeopleConnect Holdings, Inc., the parent company of USsearch, Intelius, People Connect, publicrecords.com, publicrecords360.com, truerep.com, Classmates, and peoplelookup.com. So if you remove your info from any one of these sites then you’ll be removed from all of them.
BeenVerified and peoplesmart.com are also owned by the same company. BeenVerified appears to be associated with several of these sites. I’ve seen the name appear on a few occasions during my research.
Two sites on which I reappeared after I removed myself are instantcheckmate.com and truthfinder.com.
The InstantCheckmate reappearance happened after only two months from the time I had them taken down. The company rep explained that they obtain their information from other sources and could not guarantee that I won’t appear again on their site.
As for TruthFinder, I decided out of curiosity to look up S.O. apps in the Play Store and found one that was created by the service. I installed it and searched my area, and guess who appeared on their list? So even if you’re taken down from their website there’s a chance that you’re still on the app. I took a screenshot and emailed them my complaint, mentioning that I had already been removed from their site. It took them a couple of weeks to delete me from the list on the app. Keep in mind that the rep I spoke to at the beginning that removals are permanent. But don’t just go on the word of the person answering the phone. Be vigilant and thorough. Do searches on your name periodically on these sites and on Google.
Homefacts doesn’t exactly fall under any of these categories of websites. They’re a real estate information website which happens to contain a section listing registered SO’s for every state. And when Googling just my first and last name my photo on their site turned up at the top of the search. So once I was removed from the registry I naturally made it a priority to contact these people before anyone else. To remove your photo and info visit www.homefacts.com, then at the bottom of the page under “About Us” click “Report An Error.” A window will open containing fields which you fill out. In the message field I simply wrote, “I am not listed on any registry. Please remove me from your website and submit it to Google.” It’s been discussed here in the past that Homefacts isn’t exactly run by the most reasonable people, so it’s best to refrain from using aggressive language or threats of lawsuits, at least not when sending your first message requesting removal. In fact, if you’re no longer on the public registry then the turnaround is pretty quick once you make the request. I was removed from their site the next day after I messaged them, but I still wasn’t sure as to whether or not they submitted the removal to Google. The good news is that you can easily do this yourself if you have a Google account (see “SEARCH ENGINE REMOVAL” below).
There were other “offender” sites on which my image turned up when I Googled my name, such as Busted Offenders and Offender Radar.
With Busted Offenders you will need to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org requesting removal. They will ask you to reply with documentation as proof, such as Certificate of Rehabilitation.
Offender Radar removal instructions: at the bottom right of the home page, under “About Us” click “Report an Error.” In the window, under “What is the source of the Data Complaint?” click “OffenderRadar.com Data,” then click “NEXT STEP.” In the next window click “I have verified that state registry is different than the OffenderRadar.com data.” In the next window select complaint category “Not in Registry,” then fill in the fields. Under “OffenderRadar Data” type “not on registry.” Under “State Registry Data” type “N/A.” In the “More Comments” box you can elaborate by saying that you’re not on any registry and request immediate removal from OffenderRadar and report the removal to Google. They will remove your info and photo usually the next day. I did pop up again on this site a couple of months after the first removal. So this time around when filling in the “More Comments” box I warned them that the next time will result in contact from my attorney. Hopefully that’s the end of it with this site.
I checked Family Watchdog — a supposedly popular site for searching S.O.’s — not long after I was terminated from the registry, but I didn’t find myself on there. I guess they update on a fairly frequent basis.
Keep in mind that your cached image may still turn up in a search after you’ve been removed from these sites. These will eventually drop off, but if you want to get rid of these sooner than later then this can likewise be resolved using the search engine removal tool. Again, I have dedicated a separate section below with instructions on how to remove yourself from Google and Bing/Yahoo.
IMPORTANT NOTE: as with all of these sites you find yourself on, make sure to bookmark your profile page AND save the link in a text file, which you can then use to remove yourself from Google searches.
Ah yes, the wonderful world of mugshot websites. God bless them, eh? Until recently, it was a losing game for people who were posted on these sites. Removal would have cost you a pretty penny, and once one site took you down they apparently alerted others to put your info up on theirs, knowing that you had the money to remove yourself from the previous one and will likely pay again. As one article that I read on the subject put it, it became an endless game of whack-a-mole. Well, those days are over thanks to lawmakers cracking down on this obvious extortion scheme.
I’ll start with the most notorious of them all, mugshots.com.
My friend called me one evening and urged me to turn on the TV and watch Inside Edition. The segment that was running at the time was covering mugshots.com, how it’s damaged so many lives, and how the owners were finally being brought to justice. What caught my attention was when the host said at the end of the segment that mugshots.com will now remove your information “for free.” Well, not for everyone: you’ll need proof of expungement. Go here https://mugshots.com/contact/ and fill out the fields. When requesting removal in the Message box make sure to include your Mugshots ID #, which should be right beneath your name on the site. They’ll email you with instructions.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the guy at mugshots.com who responded to my emails wasn’t exactly the brightest bulb on the chandelier. He asked me for a copy of the “expungement docs.” So I sent him the only official document, which in California is the Order for Dismissal.” But apparently this wasn’t enough, because while my info was deleted my name and photo still remained on the page with “CASE DISMISSED” in red caps across my face. So I emailed again to ask why, and the guy replied telling me that for my name and picture to be deleted he’ll still need the “expungment docs.” I told him that the Order for Dismissal I sent him is the official expungement document in the State of California. But he still didn’t accept it, so I sent him a copy of the court filing itself as well as the minute order on which I highlighted in yellow the part where the judge granted my expungement, as well as a link to the statute describing expungment under the California Penal Code. The guy finally removed my name and photo.
Another mugshot site I came across is arrestfacts.com. Search your name on the home page. Once you’ve found your profile, click “INFORMATION CONTROL” beneath your picture, fill in your name, email, click “I’m not a robot” and send. You will receive an email with a link to click and confirm. They’ll remove you shortly.
For bustedmugshots.com, which has a much simpler process. Just go to www.bustedmugshots.com/contact and fill in the fields. You’ll be removed quickly.
These are the most commonly known mugshot sites I found in my research. As I understood it, there are supposedly countless others out there. But from what I uncovered, some of them have already gone out of business. Along with numerous civil suits, those recent crackdowns could very well have been the cause, either scaring the owners into believing that they’ll meet a similar fate or shutting down any means through which they can collect payment. And with new and pending legislation fighting these sites both on state and federal levels, I’m predicting that they will soon be a thing of the past.
PEOPLE SEARCH SITES
For most of these sites all you need to do is opt out. There are many that fall under this category, but some of them may have already been mentioned above as background check companies. Others such as MyLife is an all-in-one comprehensive reputation site that contains info on your credit record, criminal background, etc.
Before I continue, I want to share a brief thought on opting out. If you’ve received an expungement, CoR and termination from the registry then all you need to do is make sure that your info is updated on these sites. Opting out may lead to complications should someone, such as a company you’re applying a job with, want to run a check on you and can’t find any information. I personally opt out only because I don’t want any of my personal info such as home address to be made public. So opting out isn’t for everyone and in certain instances may not be advisable.
As with all of the types of sites mentioned previously, the following are some of the most popular under this category, but there are likely many similar sites out there.
peekyou.com: visit https://www.peekyou.com/about/contact/optout/ and fill in the search fields. You will receive an automated email. Reply to confirm.
spokeo.com: enter your name in the search field on the home page. Once you have found your name in the list, click it and verify that the profile is indeed yours, then copy the URL. Then go to www.spokeo.com/optout and paste the URL and enter your email address in the respective fields, then click “I’m not a robot” and “REMOVE THIS LISTING.” You will receive an automated email. Click the link in the email to confirm.
publicrecordsnow.com: go to https://www.publicrecordsnow.com/static/view/contact/. Next to “Subject” select “OPT-OUT” and fill out the rest of the fields, then click “Send Message.”
city-data.com: your info is on their list classified by zip code and will likely turn up on a Google or Bing search. Simply email them at email@example.com explaining that you are no longer on any registry. They’ll remove your name and info immediately.
whitepages.com: copy URL of your profile page. Go to https://support.whitepages.com/hc/en-us/requests/new. Under “Please choose your issue below” select “I need to edit or remove a listing,” fill in your email address and paste listing URL. You can skip all the other fields except Subject and Description as required. Click “Submit.”
publicrecordsnow.com: go to https://www.publicrecordsnow.com/static/view/contact/. Next to “Subject” select “OPT-OUT” and fill out the rest of the fields, then click “Send Message.”
REMOVAL FROM SEARCH ENGINES
If you removed your info and photo on a site then it should eventually drop off from Google searches. If, however, you don’t have that sort of time or patience then the good news is that you can do this manually and have it deleted from searches usually within a day.
Google: again, you’ll need to log in with an existing Google account. If you don’t want to open one then you can have a friend or family member who has an account do it for you. Simply log in to the search console at https://accounts.google.com/signin/v2/identifier?service=sitemaps&passive=1209600&continue=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fwebmasters%2Ftools%2Fremovals&followup=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fwebmasters%2Ftools%2Fremovals&flowName=GlifWebSignIn&flowEntry=ServiceLogin. Under “Remove outdated content” you’ll see a field where you paste the link of the old URL where your deleted profile used to be. It should be a dead link (404). Click the red “REQUEST REMOVAL” and follow instructions. NOTE: if the link you submit isn’t necessarily “dead” but leads to a general page on the site, then the console will give you an option to update on any cached info. In this case the removal type is “changed content.” This process will likely take a little longer. You can log in to the console to check the status.
Bing/Yahoo: these two search engines are now one and the same. Go here https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/ and log in with a Microsoft, Google or Facebook account. This one’s even easier than Google’s removal tool. Simply enter the dead link in the “Content URL” field, then select the “Removal type,” then click “SUBMIT.”
Well, hopefully some of you will benefit from this post. I can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain your own situation. Stay on top of everything whenever you can. Like I already said, in many cases the outdated information should simply drop off on its own, depending on the site. But for others, you’ll need to remove it yourself. Again, please feel free to ask questions or contribute with additional information relevant to this topic.
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