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The Growing Paranoia: Data Breaches and How To Protect Yourself

February 14, 2014 No Comments

Featured article by Erik Knight, founder of

You just paid your rent online. The site seems safe and you don’t think twice about a data breach, but is it?  As cases of online identity fraud grow, one can never be too careful about freely giving away personal information.

In fact, a new identity fraud victim was hit every two seconds in America in 2013, with the number of victims climbing to 13.1 million over the year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Study. This is an uptick of more than 500,000 victims in 2012. Approximately 15 million US residents have their identities used fraudulently each year with a financial loss totaling upwards of $50 billion.

Stats for crimes go up over the holidays and this is the time consumers suffer. Erik Knight, creator of saw the importance of access to information and created a free platform for finding out if someone’s identity has been breached. DirtSearch searches through online public records and based on an algorithm aggregates data across the internet to find what is listed online about someone.

Recently, the site expanded onto both the Android and iPhone platforms allowing consumers to easily do a search from ones mobile device.  The mobile applications allow one to go back through their history and have the option to do a quick or deep search for better results. Just by typing in a loved ones name in just a few minutes, every public record available. Consumers use the site for a variety of reasons from inquiring about criminal records, civil suits, probate records, to property ownership records and identity theft protection. The dashboard is used so that one can log in and manage “Dirt Alerts” and saved searches quickly stay up to date with any new information and search activity.

The app accesses thousands of public records delivering instant results. Users simply enter first name, last name and choose a state from a drop down menu. A second feature includes the ability to do deep searches by simply selecting a box under the above-referenced fields. The deep search option is the difference between pulling the data that is cached in the database versus going out to the world and checking all the data in all of the sources in real-time.  Results include criminal records, sex offenders, property ownership, social media profiles and more.

Fraudsters can steal an identity by obtaining different pieces of information about a person and putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle, including information such as a person’s zip code, maiden name or date of birth. So the site also reveal a person’s vulnerability online.

Knight admits that many big companies have had security breaches, eroding consumer confidence and that coupled with the fact that there might be erroneous information about you floating around the Internet are good reasons to do a background search. Clearly, the more information you have about a person, the better your searches will be. Knowing a middle name and date of birth will help weed out people with similar names.  He also states that if you aren’t completely sure you’ve found the right person, don’t act on the information until you’ve verified it is actually them.

The company recently reviewed more than 2 million online applications from 2014 and found that while consumers were not only making purchases at stores, work was another place people were entering information about themselves online, and with many work computers being in the public domain, predators have more access to information than before.

The company found that people would wait till after working hours to conducting anything that might take time such as online background searches and that the majority of searches are taking place during the weekday and most often on Tuesdays during lunch (between the 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. hour).

Knight also noted that the majority of people who background search someone complete their session in ten minutes or less. It’s a simple, intuitive process that takes about 30 minutes to complete, even if once the results come up and they want to ensure some information is removed, it’s fairly quick.

Knowing and understanding when you are most vulnerable is the first step in identity protection.

eknight headshot 150x150 The Growing Paranoia: Data Breaches and How To Protect Yourself

Erik Knight is the founder of founded in 2008. Erik originally created the site when a number of people asked him to find information on people their significant others were dating through public records. After doing this a number of times, he realized there was no single place on the Internet to search for public records inexpensively and quickly.

After his original inception, DirtSearch has continued to grow and improve its accuracy and is the only free online “Background Check” website in the world. The site is fully automated and takes a few minutes to search what would normally take hours or days by hand. Over 130 thousand people a month nationwide use DirtSearch. For more about Erik Knight or DirtSearch, visit





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