How to Remove Public Records from the Internet in 2020: An Actionable Guide

When it comes to preserving your privacy online and in the real world, removing public records is crucial. This information can be easily accessed by anyone who cares to type in your name on a search engine. And if it falls into the wrong hands, it can be used against you. By removing these records from as many sources as possible, you can rest easier knowing that bad actors don’t have much to go off of.

But removing public records isn’t always easy. That’s why we’re creating this guide. Here, we’re going to go above and beyond other “how to remove public records from Google” resources and explore the complete privacy life cycle between you and your personal information available to all. Below is a quick overview of what we’ll cover.

Public records

What are Public Records?

The term “public records” may sound pretty self-explanatory, but there’s a lot to unpack here. At the most general level, they’re any type of information that’s recorded and stored – and that the public can access. This might bring to mind images of government archives packed with physical records, but they can also exist digitally.

To list a few examples, the most commonly encountered types of public records include birth records and marriage records. They can also include business records (like articles of incorporation or meeting minutes) and governmental records (like financial records and government licensing records).

By themselves, these are important documents for citizens. However, now that people search sites and data brokers collect and publish them across the internet, it’s important to know how to keep your sensitive information safe.

Types of Public Records

How do you remove information from public records? How this is done and if you can do it depends on the type that we’re talking about. There are two major types: Public records about people and about government actions. We’ll take a quick look at these below:

Public Records about People

Personal records include documents and information concerning individuals. For instance, depending on the state, information regarding birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates can often be found by contacting the county clerk where these events took place.

These records also extend to real estate and property information, such as homeownership, deeds, mortgages, and property taxes. Depending on what state you’re in, corporation and LLC ownership files are considered publicly accessible. If available in your state, such information can often be found at the Secretary of State’s office.

Can public records be deleted? If you’re referring to records on people search sites, then yes. But when we’re talking about original records, such as those generated from government agencies, then there are very few cases where such information can be removed.

Public Records about Government Actions

Information about government actions or policies can also be found in public records. For instance, all federal civil court records and criminal charges can be found online at PACER.gov. Likewise, state, city, and county records can also be accessed online.

Of particular note, in 1967, the Freedom of Information Act was passed, requiring all US government agencies to provide timely releases of information in response to records requests from anyone. Some types of official information cannot be released, but for most general requests, the agency is required by law to release the information.

How Public Records Appear Online

Traditionally, public records were physical documents which were archived in publicly accessible places. Today, they’re mostly stored and accessed via the internet. How does this work? In most cases, government agencies are digitizing files and saving them on the web. In other cases, those same agencies sell those files to information brokers, meaning your sensitive information can also be found on non-government websites. For state-specific information on who has access to public court records, see the NCSC page here.

On one hand, now that more courts and government agencies are releasing public records on websites, it’s much easier for you to access your records. Depending on the jurisdiction, you can often locate your records on a government website for free or for a low cost.

But there’s a pretty clear downside to this too.

Why You Should Remove Public Records on People Search Sites

If public records are so easy for you to get your hands on, then they’re easy for everyone else to get too. This is risky since these records contain a lot of sensitive information. For instance, Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and bank account information are commonly reported in divorce, child custody, and bankruptcy cases. Also found on these documents are birthdates and other bits of personal information, making it easy to commit identity theft.

One of the biggest consumer-facing issues in this regard is the rise of people search sites. These websites skim information from public records and other sources to collect archives of data on individuals – visible to anyone. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest reasons why you should remove unauthorised profiles from people search sites:

  • Higher Risk for Identity Theft: Having data from your public records posted on websites makes it easier for thieves to steal your identity. By leveraging general data such as your home address, family names, date of birth, and more, it can be easier to access accounts that hold your Social Security Numbers or banking information.  A recent identity theft report found that, while overall fraud rates are down since  2016, 23% more victims have to pay out of pocket for this type of identity-related fraud.

  • Reputation-Damaging Information: People search sites aren’t too concerned with the accuracy of their records. In many cases, your record may be mistakenly merged with someone else’s, meaning you get false information attributed to your own name. This may involve jail time, bankruptcy charges, or any other reputation-damaging information. It’s best to delete yourself from these sites altogether.

  • May Fuel Doxxing: Doxxing is a newer internet phenomenon in which unwanted personal information is publicly shared about an individual. The earlier stage in the doxxing lifecycle is fueled by breadcrumbs of data found on the internet. People search sites are a key source of this information. Removing your personal records from here can make it harder to locate more personal information about you.

  • Increased Swatting Risk: Have you heard stories about gamers and celebrities getting “swatted”? This involves false calls to law enforcement to encourage SWAT teams to break into an unexpected person’s home. Tragically, this has led to the death of a few innocent people. Swatting requires knowing someone’s address, which is readily displayed alongside other personal information on people search sites.

  • Greater Chance of Experiencing Stalking or Harassment (both on- and offline): People whose sensitive information is exposed online are less protected from physical threats posed by aggressive behaviour or violence against them. A Pew Research Center study of online harassment found that 62% of Americans consider online harassment a major problem, and four in ten have personally experienced it. 
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How to Remove Public Records from Google (Published by People Search Sites)

So, people search sites use original state and federal public records to populate their databases, and then they create unauthorized profiles about individuals gathering all of this information in one place. This means that many people have their sensitive information published across many websites, leaving them vulnerable to risks we mentioned above. This is why knowing how to remove public records from Google is so important.

There are two ways to do this:

  • The Manual Way: This requires contacting each website one by one, going to every site individually and opting out. Sometimes it’s a matter of pressing a button, but other times it requires phone calls, filling out fields with even more information about yourself, and having conversations with support teams. In short, the manual way can quickly become a hassle. The OneRep team has studied removal procedures on most people search sites and prepared detailed instructions on opting out of 100+ sites. Just follow these instructions to remove yourself manually and make sure you revisit these sites at a later date to double check if your record has been deleted or if it hasn’t reappeared. Or…

  • The Automatic Way: If you don’t have time to scan websites for your sensitive information and then go through the opt-out procedures, you can use OneRep’s public records removal  platform. We’ll remove your information from more than 100 people search sites — automatically. 

Here at OneRep, we believe protecting your privacy should be easy. We’ve found that our users appear, on average, on 35 sites. On these sites, around 88 of their personal records are openly displayed to the public. These people search sites purposely obfuscate the removal process, so it can be hard to begin the process or know when it’s finished.

And even worse, once you do finally scrub your data off of these sites, it will probably just pop back up. Rather than spending a considerable amount of time every month opting out and surveying new sites for your information, you can try OneRep and we will do all the menial work for you. 

Can you Really Remove Information from Public Records?

By following either or the methods introduced above, you can remove your sensitive personal information from being displayed on people search sites. In this way, this personal information can be deleted — the law is on your side, and it obliges people search engines to remove unauthorized profiles upon request.

But what about removing original public records, such as from court or any other public institution? The answer isn’t so simple here. These records are very hard to delete unless the government provides a mechanism to clear them, and unless you have a verifiable reason to have them sealed. After all, records about arrests, bankruptcy, judgments, liens, lawsuits, and foreclosures are public for a reason — they help ensure transparency to the public.

Depending on your state, you may be able to clear criminal records via expungement, which essentially “deletes” arrests and convictions from a person’s criminal record. Another option is “sealing,” which removes a person’s criminal record from public view. Many people are using these mechanisms to increase their access to better employment, education, housing, and so on, as a growing number of states and jurisdictions are making more criminal records eligible for expungement and sealing.

Quick Tips to Minimize the Visibility of Your Public Records

While you can’t always delete or seal public records from official agencies, you can take them off of people search sites or make a case to have parts of your record expunged. Either of these steps help take your information out of the public eye. In this section, we’re going to look at a few more ways to minimize your public record footprint:

  1. Mask Your Home Address with a PO Box: By renting a PO box from your local post office, you can keep your home address off of important documents. In some states, it’s even legal to use your PO box as your address on your Driver’s License. Once you have your PO box, change all services to this new address.

  2. Pay Bills Online: To keep mail with sensitive information from being sent to you, you can opt-out of paper delivery options for your bills. Pay them digitally, and request digital receipts.

  3. Transfer Property to an LLC: If you own property, then you can move the property over to an LLC, incorporation, or limited partnership. Then, address the mail to that business entity.

  4. Move at Least Once: If you’re renting, then moving at least once will send unwanted mail (the mail that isn’t routed to your PO box) to your last address.

  5. Mask Your Phone Number: You can keep your real phone number private by only giving out a prepaid cell phone number to services and general acquaintances.   

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Public Records

How can you remove public records from the internet?

While personal information may appear in search engines, it isn’t the search engine that’s publishing the data but an entity whose webpage is listed in the search engine. These are often data brokers or people search sites, which are required by law to take down your information if requested. You can remove your information from these sites manually, or by using OneRep to automatically opt out, and keep your information off afterward. Don’t forget to clear your browser’s cache after you’ve opted out to make sure Google or Safari get rid of your unauthorized listings too. 

How do you remove public records from court?

You can try expungement or sealing if you have an eligible case. If, however, you want to remove court records from the internet, this is only possible using one of two methods. The first involves making the case to Google about why the record (displayed on a webpage) should be removed. To do that, use this page. The second is to talk to the people who own the website containing the court record information and ask them to remove it. 

How do you remove public records from credit report?

Ideally, you can remove public records from credit reports by preventing them rather than dealing with them after the fact. Don’t let courts get involved, and stay on top of your finances, and this won’t be a concern. If it’s passed that point, you can dispute an error on your credit report to get a section removed. Normally, information older than seven years will stop showing up on your report – but they can still affect your score.

How can you remove a bankruptcy from your credit report?

If you want to remove a fraudulent bankruptcy due to identity theft or a clerical error, there is a way to do that. First you need to apply to the court to ask them for a written statement that verifies you did not have a bankruptcy on file. Then send a dispute letter to each of the major credit bureaus with copies of your ID and the court statement. It will usually take a few weeks for your credit reports to show the changes. 

If a bankruptcy on your credit report is legitimate, it will be much more difficult to remove it before the 7-year period for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or 10 years for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, if you’ve found an error or inconsistency in the bankruptcy listing on your report, you can try to request the error correction and subsequent bankruptcy removal. The hope is that this will expose some kind of problem or technicality that occurred during the process and will ultimately become grounds for removal.

How can you remove a tax lien from your credit report?

As long as a tax lien is unpaid, it can stay on your credit report indefinitely. Credit bureaus may remove an unpaid tax lien after a period of ten years. However, there is no guarantee that will still be the case ten years from now. The best thing to do if you have an unpaid tax lien is pay it in full as soon as possible.

How do you remove public records from MyLife?

MyLife is a notoriously tricky people search site to opt out of. If you go the manual route, you’ll need to consistently request that your sensitive personal details be removed from their site. Legally, they have to consider your claim. If they purposely obfuscate the process, remind them of their legal obligations and continue to persist. If you’d rather do this automatically, sign up for OneRep. We’ll take you off of MyLife and many other people search sites.

Can you view marriage and divorce records online?

Marriage and divorce records are considered public records and can often be found online. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find online versions on your county clerk’s office website.

Can marriage records be private?

If you’re already married and want to make your marriage record private, this cannot be done. However, if you have a wedding coming up, then you can consider a confidential marriage license. This requires no witnesses — only an Officiant. The marriage is recorded, but not made accessible to the public. 

Can marriage records be sealed?

Marriage records cannot be sealed. However, if you’re married with a confidential marriage license, the records will not be visible to anyone but the couple involved. On the other hand, you can request to seal divorce records.

How to delete marriage records?

Marriage records cannot be deleted. They are considered public records, unless the marriage was conducted with a confidential marriage license. You can remove marriage record information from people search sites and data brokers, but the official records cannot be altered.

Are arrest records public?

Generally speaking, arrest records are public in the U.S. However, each state can decide under which conditions such records are made public or kept from the public. For instance, in cases where releasing information may put people at risk, some states may restrict the information. In some cases, arrest records can be expunged.

Can arrest records be expunged?

In the event that someone is arrested but not convicted of a crime, they may be eligible to expunge (or seal) the record. This is typically only done if the person in question has not had a record expunged in the past.

Everyone is entitled to privacy. If you want to protect your online privacy and remove your public record information from people search sites quickly, OneRep is here to help. Select your OneRep plan here, and we’ll take your information off of people search sites – and keep it off.

Check if people search sites expose your info

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and removes your private information. Automatically.  

Mary Shishkova

OneRep privacy specialist