DIY Hacking Of Interest Privacy

Playing Amateur Detective

A woman on a dating site challenges my brother-in-law to find her real identity.

A woman on a dating site challenges my brother-in-law to find her real identity.

A couple of years ago, while visiting my brother-in-law, I was able to demonstrate to him just how quickly and easy it is to locate a person online. He was chatting up a woman on the dating site, FarmersOnly.com. He had given her some information and she had easily found him. It was his business name so it was fairly easy for her to find him. She then started bragging that he would not be able to find her with her information in her profile.

She had included only her first and middle name, age, town, and her Farmer’s Only pseudonym in her profile. I told my brother-in-law that I could probably find her with only a simple Google search. We challenged her that we could find her in a short amount of time. She bragged again that she was totally secure and we could not find her.

Here was my plan:
1) Her first & middle name was not that common, let’s refer to her as PJ.
2) She lives in a small town.
3) Her age would narrow down any duplicates.
4) Her hobby may narrow down the search.
5) She indicated in previous conversation she was comfortably supported, probably a business.
6) I could confirm her identity if she reused her FarmersOnly account name.

I started with a Google search with her first and middle name in quotes and her town. I had several listings and took a look at the listing on Intellius. There was a listing with the same first and middle name combination, town, age and a couple of differing last names. I searched both of the last names and identified a business and the obituary of a possible deceased husband 2 years prior. This was in just the first 5 minutes.

I was confident we had the correct woman. Now, what was needed was to search further to confirm we had the right person, something to tie the woman in the Google search with the woman on FarmersOnly.com.

I narrowed the search to add in her hobby, trail riding. There was a riding club listing officers with showing a woman with one of the last names. That name also matched the business and her deceased husband. This listing gave her name, address, phone number, and [BINGO] an email with an almost identical email name as her FarmersOnly name.

We chatted back to PJ and listed what we found. She confirmed that the information was correct and asked how we found her. I told her all of the steps I used. I informed her that if she wanted to be anonymous, she should not use a pseudonym associated with her real name. Also remove any unnecessary information from web sites by searching for her name or any pseudonym associate with her real name.

Lesson: Don’t use a pseudonym associated with your real name if you want to remain anonymous.

 

 

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About Anna Nyms

Anna Nyms loves to write about numbers and what can be done with them. She is an advocate for privacy and stronger online security. Her interests are encryption, privacy, hacking, and programming. Anna currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband and young daughter. She is a former US Air Force officer, spent nearly 20 years in the California desert working at Lockheed Martin ADP, and now works as a computer programmer.

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