Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Scary, isn't it?

So, I'm online the other night and this guy sends me an intelligent IM. Those are so rare that I pay some attention to them. We get chatting and get this -- sex never comes up. He has a girlfriend and understands that I have a boyfriend, so it's not going any further. It's an interesting conversation, though. We talk a little about our backgrounds. We live in the same area. By the end of it, he gives me his first name. I give him the shortened version of my name that my friends call me. Good to meet ya, chat later. It was a nice way to pass the time.

I started thinking about my last blog and wondering just how much you can find out about a person with how little information. I ran a search of my first name and my location, since that's all my new friend has about me. A couple of legitimate things came up, but apparently enough people with my first name live here that it would be hard to determine which one is me. That nickname of mine is even more common, so that's no help. Good.

I wondered about my new friend. All I had was his first name and town, and a nickname he had in high school. He was careful with his info, which is good. Was he careful enough?

I Googled (I love proper names that become verbs!) his first name and location. From that only, I learned:

His last name.
His wife's name.
His children's names and ages. One child's exact birthdate.
His wife's parents' and grandparents' names.
When he and his wife were married, and his wife's maiden name.
That he wrote for his college newspaper.
That he can write a pretty intelligent Letter to the Editor.
The years that he attended Cal Farley's Boys Ranch.
His email address in 2002.
His wife had extradition proceedings against her last year.
His brother's name and the years that he attended Boys Ranch. Also, that his brother is in the military, recently in Iraq.

Most of that came from the pages found on Google. The marriage record was in a free public database. As harmless as it seems, the high school nickname actually confirmed that I had the right person. He used it as his email address when posting on a public message board in 2002.

The Boys Ranch thing clued me in that this guy might have a "colorful" past. So, I turned to a database that is not free, but to which anyone can subscribe for a modest fee. From that I learned:
About his criminal record from 1998-2004.
His middle name.
His birth date.
His address.
His driver's license number.
The fact that he's not a registered voter.
His wife's address, which is separate from his (I looked at this to try to confirm that they are divorced, as actual divorce records for that year are not accessible online).
The names of other adults living at the same address (I looked at this to try to confirm that he lives with his girlfriend, whose name I now know).

Now, if I were the stalking type, this fella could be in real trouble. I'm just someone who knows how to use Google and a couple of public records sites. What if he runs into a looney basket with the same skills? What kind of nightmare could happen?

And for nothing more than a friendly chat. He didn't even do anything particularly wrong.

For people meeting people online, this kind of information access is a beautiful thing. It keeps them from being hurt by someone like the guy with the "dead" wife. In this case, if this fella wanted to get closer, a woman is warned about his criminal history and what kind of crime he committed.

However, there's a flip side. That's the scary side. By giving seemingly innocent information, you can allow anyone to find you. Maybe even find your family. A first name, a town, and an old nickname. That's all I had.

Next time you cut someone off in traffic (accidentally or not), think about this. There's also a database where someone (for a small fee) can look up your license plate number, and find your name, address, and the former owner of your car....

A step away is the database where they plug in your name and get your address, description, driver's license number, and the names of other adults registered at your address...and all of their information, too.

The classic double-edged sword. Now, I have to wonder if there's any money in teaching people how to wield it for good? Or would I just feed those who would use it for evil?


Ms.L said...

That's f*cking scary!
Thanks for this....

Blogget Jones said...

You're welcome! I just don't think most people realize what's out there, information-wise, that can be dangerous in the hands of others, crazy-people-wise. Try Googling yourself and see what happens!

NWO said...

This is kinda scary... but should also help keep people a bit more honest about themselves. In the meantime, you have a future in detective work!

Ms.L said...

I have,lol,all I come up with is a famous author's name,nothing on little ole me,yay!

Blogget Jones said...

SoORObserver -- thanks! And you're right that it should keep people more honest. You'd think it would! This guy didn't lie to me about anything I found, but I've seen so many others still lie. And stick to it in the face of the facts! You'd think they'd learn.... Aw well. More people just need to learn to do these searches and it *might* get better!

Thanks again!

Blogget Jones said...

That's great, Ms. L! There's a little bit out there about me, but you'd have to know a lot about me to actually know it's me! Good to know!

Lisa said...

Wow, you have gotten me scared .

I had aguy that I knew 16 years ago getmy married name and my phone # and address . He called me ( my husband answered and this guy lied to him) and he was asking questions about if I stayed at home during the day and made a comment ( twice )about running into me. I then found out from an old friend that he was looking to have an affair with me . This guy is ( and always has been )bad news and now he knows where I live .

Thanks for the info .

Blogget Jones said...

Oh my gosh, Lisa! You might want to see what info you can get on him, just so you know what to look out for and where! I don't know what harassment or stalking laws might cover this, but it might be worth finding out. Tread carefully with him! Is he an unstable kind of person?

How frightening for you! Maybe telling him "no" will be enough, I hope.


Lisa said...

This guys history with me is not good. He was not one to listen when someone says 'no'. This was just last week so it is still very fresh. I just cannot believe someone can try to barge in on a mnarraige with no thought whatsoever. He is drinking again , that is what worried me the most.

Blogget Jones said...

Oh, that is scary! Nothing like alcohol to make a scary situation scarier. Yeah, he's got a lotta balls to try to wreck a marriage like that. Sounds like a real piece of....work!!

Be very careful!! But I'm sure you've thought of that.... Anything new from him?