Warnings about www.familytreenow.com have been making the rounds on social media of late.
Under the guise of being a genealogy aid, the site provides a slew of personal information that identity thieves could potentially use for nefarious purposes.
The site provides information like your full name, age, birth year, aliases and current and past addresses.
The site is free and anyone can use it. This raises giant red flags for privacy experts for a variety of reasons — cybersecurity issues, for one, as well as making it easier for potential stalkers to prey upon victims.
Even the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command unit was concerned enough about the site they sent out a Criminal Alert Notice dated Jan. 24, 2017 to military, which was forwarded from a source to LibertyID.
“This notice is being provided as a crime prevention service to your respective formations,” it begins.
It describes how to remove your information from the site, which we’ll also walk you through in a moment.
So who is behind this site, which has such little regard for people’s privacy?
The San Francisco Chronicle wondered the same thing and earlier this month published a story about the elusive FamilyTreeNow founder Dustin Weirich, a 36-year-old software developer. While the journalist who wrote the story, Marissa Lang, tried to track Weirich down for the story, she wasn’t able to; he didn’t return a note left on his home’s gate asking for comment.
Not surprisingly, Weirich’s own information is not listed on familytreenow.com.
But we’re willing to bet yours is.
Ours was, including every address at which we’ve ever lived, and a list of nearly two dozen close relatives, including parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.
“The information, if accurate, may also pose a cybersecurity threat. Questions like ‘What street did you grow up on?’ or ‘In what city did you meet your spouse?’ are used as common security questions by websites to reset your password. They can easily be answered by the information in one of these reports,” according to the Chronicle story.
The bottom line is if someone is motivated to find out information about you, they can, but sites like these make it uncomfortably easy.
That’s right — this website isn’t the only site offering up personal information to the masses. Spokeo and Whitepages do the same. We suggest remove your information from those sites as well.
And while some online sources have compared the effort of removing your name and info from online aggregator sites to a constant game of whack-a-mole since your personal information will still be available through the underlying public record sources used in the first place, we still suggest you take the time to opt out, which frankly these sites don’t tend to make very easy, which is why we’ve taken the time to walk you through it.
How to remove your listing from FamilyTreeNow
- Visit www.familytreenow.com/optout
- Read all of the instructions listed before starting.
- Click the square marked “I’m not a Robot.”
- Click on the “Begin Opt Out Procedure” button.
- The page will redirect you to a search page. Enter your name and click search.
- The website will provide a results page of possible matches for your name. Find your information by clicking on the record details.
- Click on a record and verify that it is indeed your record. Then click the red Opt Out button.
- You will then see a message that says “Your opt out request is being processed. Please allow up to 48 hours for your record to be removed.”
If you have multiple records, we found we needed to go through the whole process over again in order to get the red opt out button to pop up.
The website includes a note: “If you found your record via a search engine, go back to the exact record, then copy the URL from your browser address bar and submit it on our contact us page here.”
From data that’s breached via companies we entrust with our information, to websites such as these that exist just to scrape public documents in search of personal information, it’s no wonder the identity theft stats increase year after year.
Are you covered for identity theft?