Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more.
The information you post on these accounts can reveal a lot about you. When you add in public records like addresses, phone numbers, birth and marriage certificates, driving violations, and court cases, anyone who searches your name online will find a fairly comprehensive overview of you.
People run online searches on others all the time, and it’s important to occasionally search yourself, both on Google and a more thorough search tool like BeenVerified, so you know what they’re finding. You don’t want an embarrassing or questionable old post to come back and haunt you.
But what happens if you find something factually incorrect in a search of yourself? Identity theft is incredibly common, especially in an age when we’re inputting sensitive personal information into many of the websites and apps we use. Someone could be using your name for a variety of nefarious purposes, ranging from impersonating you on social media to opening fraudulent accounts in your name.
“The reality is that an inaccurate background report can affect practically every area of your life, writes HR expert Ruth Mayhew in a Legal Beagle post. “Errors on your background report can cause you to lose your dream job, the home you’ve always wanted, or the love of your life.”
Here are some steps you may want to take if you spot any fraudulent accounts in your name.
Correcting False Or Inaccurate Public Records
Getting fake social media profiles deleted is relatively easy. Most of the major social networks have a process for verification when fraud is suspected (it typically involves contacting the site and providing the link to the fake profile and proof of your identity), and they often work quickly to suspend any account that’s proven as false.
Likewise, correcting a credit report error can be accomplished by mailing a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency with copies of documents that support the correct information. You will also need to contact your bank or credit provider to let them know of the dispute. More information can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website.
Errors in your criminal record and civil litigation history – including bankruptcies, tax liens, and lawsuits – can be more difficult to address. Mayhew notes in her article that you will need to visit your local police department or courthouse to obtain a hard copy of any reports on you and your local background history. For federal cases, you’ll need to request your Identity History Summary from the FBI.
Once you’ve identified the specific error(s) in your records, fill out the appropriate form from the agency to have it corrected. You may also be asked to provide multiple forms of identification.
If, on the other hand, you’ve received a copy of your background report from a Consumer Reporting Agency with errors, you can use the reports and records obtained from local authorities as proof to clear your name. It’s important to submit the request to the background check provider in writing and keep records of all correspondences, said Mayhew.
It may take several weeks for all the systems to be properly updated after you’ve provided the correct information. After some time has passed, revisit BeenVerified and run another check to make sure your public record inaccuracies have been fixed.
It takes time and effort to work with each individual agency or site that has incorrect information, but it’s worth it to have a clean and accurate online presence.