All posts by Justin

The Top Data Stories This Week

 

If you’re busy like us you may not have had time to catch up on reading until the weekend. Here is a roundup of the three biggest data stories we noticed this week:

1. Companies Data Security In Question After Sony Hack

sony
A bad week for Sony Pictures, Uber and maybe net neutrality.

As we blogged about yesterday, the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures leaves open many questions about how companies guard their customers and employees’ private data. With the culprits still out there, large companies are playing catch-up to ensure their systems won’t be breached next.

2. Uber Admits Employees Abused “God View” Location Tracking

Uber has been in the news for all sorts of reasons in the past few weeks, but their latest misstep involved the use of a data tool that allowed its employees to all rides an individual user has taken. After being taken to task by a US Senator, Uber responded in writing about its collection of user ride data and admitted that some abuses occurred. We have definitely not heard the end of this one.

3. Dirty Data: Why the 4 Million Comments On Net Neutrality May Not Be What They Seem

The ongoing battle between advocates for and against net neutrality rages on, with a new report surfacing that just one group could have manufactured the overwhelming number of responses to the FCC’s request for comment. Both sides have tried to poke holes in the other’s interpretation of the data, and as President Obama weighs in, it’s clear this controversy will rumble on through the tech community and beyond.

What was the most interesting story you read this week? Let us know in the comments.

3 Ways to Better Protect Yourself From a Hack

 

The ongoing saga of the Sony hack, from gossip about Angelina Jolie’s acting skills to disturbing threats against theaters planning to show The Interview, has dominated headlines the past couple of weeks.

Amid the North Korean intrigue, one lesser- followed aspect is that many former Sony employees whose data were hacked announced they would sue the company for failing to protect their data.

Old-school solutions still work for preventing ID theft.
Old-school solutions still work for preventing ID theft. Photo credit: Sh4rp_i

Anyone paying attention to the news lately would be rightly concerned about the number of data breaches or hacks suffered by major companies from Home Depot to JP Morgan Chase and Target.

At BeenVerified, we don’t recommend operating from a position of fear. On the contrary, we believe information and awareness are your most powerful tools for managing through today’s environment, which is admittedly filled with potential threats.

While you likely can’t prevent North Korea or Russia hacking your company, favorite retailer or even Uncle Sam, you can take the following steps to minimize the fallout:

1. Know Who Has Your Private Data

This is the most important step. While it’s likely dozens or hundreds of companies have your name and email address, a select few also have access to your social security number, health records, and salary information. Make sure you know which organizations those are.

If you hear about your bank, employer or even hospital suffering a data breach, then you know you need to take immediate action. In the meantime, you can call these organizations to get a clearer understanding of what safeguards they have in place to protect your data.

As for those hundreds of email lists you’ve signed up for, don’t discount what a dedicated thief can do with just those limited pieces of information. Financial losses from phishing attacks were estimated at $1.5 billion in 2012.

2. Investigate Holes in Your Cloud

Many will remember the celebrity iCloud scandal from earlier this year featuring major celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Hudson. While private photos being stolen may not have the same impact as losing a substantial amount of money, the emotional trauma can be much worse.

More importantly, the iCloud hack has left serious questions about the security and appropriateness of cloud storage in general. Many cloud providers, including Apple, have said that the issue is not with the technology itself but rather how users manage their own security settings.

If you’re storing anything more personal than video game high scores on the cloud, it’s a good idea to review your privacy settings and password protocols now. Guard your IDs for logging into your cloud tightly as even the best hackers typically need some personal information in order to break in.

Even as new solutions emerge for cloud security, hackers find ways around them, so think carefully about what you store on the cloud and know the risks.

3. Invest in a Shredder

While the new generation of data breaches that have afflicted companies and consumers alike seem to exist in a world of high-tech software, there are some hardware solutions that can help prevent hackers from getting a leg up on you.

Ensure that all bills, bank statements and even presorted junk mail with your name on it is thoroughly destroyed before being thrown away. Many scams still revolve around obtaining your info through traditional pieces of mail.

Better yet, opt out of credit card junk mail here and switch to paperless billing with all of your bills. It will save trees and give identity thieves less of an opportunity to make you a mark.

If you are especially worried about being hacked or having your identity stolen, regular check ups of your credit report, as well as running a background check can serve as tools to alert you to anything amiss.

3 Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Data Lovers

 

At BeenVerified we’re obsessed with data, and creating compelling consumer products from it. (By the way, if you share our passion for data, perhaps you should join our team). As the holidays approach, below are some unique gift ideas for the data obsessives among your friends and family.

An intriguing new book on data from an OKCupid founder.
An intriguing new book on data from an OKCupid founder.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One Is Looking) by Christian Rudder

As a co-founder of OKCupid, the dating site that made headlines earlier this year for running experiments on its users, comes a book about human behavior from the data created when we interact with each other online.

As Rudder says in an interview promoting the book, “Your preferences on OKCupid tell us what you find sexy, and your reaction to the strangers the site offers up tells us how you judge people. The articles you “like” tell us not just about your politics, but even predict your intelligence.”

The result is “a new picture of mankind based on our data.” Creepy? Maybe. Fascinating? Definitely.

Automatic

You’ve heard about the connected home, but what about the connected car? Automatic plugs into your car and then transmits data back to an app on your smartphone.

No more relying on mysterious engine lights, you can now get detailed information on the health of your car and how best to manage it through Automatic. It can also help you save money on gas, remember where you park and help you get assistance quickly in an accident.

iLumi LED Smartbulb

You may recognize the founders in the promo video from Shark Tank, and it’s true that Mark Cuban is a major investor in this product.

What at first may seem like a mildly improved (and really expensive) light bulb that can change colors becomes a much more interesting proposition when you realize it has the capability to interact with the data on your phone.

The “smartbulbs” can be programmed not only to wake you up gently with warm light in the morning or alternate on and off when you’re not at home to dissuade burglars, but also can sync with your stock portfolio or scores of your favorite sports teams, and change color based on the data it receives.

Let us know about your favorite data-related gifts in the comments.

Watch out! BeenVerified is Growing!

 

 

As you can see from the picture below, we are knocking down walls to expand our New York office to make room for our growing company. Having started in 2008 offering our customers the ability to run a background check quickly and easily, BeenVerified has grown to the premier public data provider for a number of different uses and customers.

The BeenVerified office is under construction.
The BeenVerified office is under construction.

As we grow we need new team members to help us tell our story and develop products for all of the different types of customers that rely on us. If you are interested in joining a growing, data-driven company that encourages experimentation and having fun while doing it, we want to hear from you.

BeenVerified is currently hiring for a large number of technical and marketing positions. We have an especially strong need for engineers, people who love working with data and savvy marketers.

You can see all of our open positions here.

You can also read our blog post on the top ten reasons we think you’ll enjoy working with us here.

And finally, read an interview with an actual employee for even more detail on life at BeenVerified.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook to get a better idea of our company culture, passions and interests.

One Million Reasons to Be Careful With Your Phone

 

Yesterday GigaOM reported that thieves steal over one million cell phones in the US annually. As the article notes, that means one tenth of all robberies involve a cell phone.

We previously wrote an extensive post on why it’s not a good idea to keep sensitive photos, such as naked selfies, on your phone for this reason among others.

Don't make your phone an easy target. Photo credit: Bernard Goldbach
Don’t make your phone an easy target. Photo credit: Bernard Goldbach

The fact that added protections such as kill switches are becoming increasingly common, doesn’t invalidate the need to be careful with what you store on your phone. It may be many hours until you realize your phone is gone and by then any curious thief could have uploaded the contents of your phone to the cloud.

With cell phone theft so prevalent, it’s a good idea to review some basic steps to help avoid becoming the next victim and minimize the damage if a theft does occur:

Put a complex passcode on your phone—now.

All smartphones have the ability to put a screen lock code on to prevent intruders snooping. What many people don’t realize is that most phone makers offer more complex password options in the settings. The iPhone, for example, offers eight digit passcodes instead of the standard four.

Activate anti-theft measures

Likewise, many providers including Apple and Google now offer added anti-theft measures such as kill switches to lock the phone once you realize it’s missing or stolen, which will make it useless to the thief. Investigate the options your provider offers and ensure you are enrolled now. Insurance is only useful before you need it.

Don’t leave your phone out in public

It’s no coincidence that cell phone theft makes up the majority of all robberies in cities like San Francisco and New York, which feature active nightlife scenes. Avoid leaving your phone out on tables or on the bar. This makes it easy for the observant thief.

Don’t forget about your apps

If you have premium apps on your phone it’s a good idea to immediately reset your password and work with customer service to make sure none of your data has been compromised. In the case of BeenVerified, you can contact our highly rated customer service team to help you with any concerns.

Tell everyone

Do notify the police and also all of your key contacts. As this article notes, the thief may try to use your identity to trick your contacts into sending money or some other nefarious purpose.

Have we forgotten any precautionary steps? Have you used a “kill switch” after your phone went missing? Let us know in the comments.

Top 3 Ways to Handle Rejection in Online Dating

 

Rejection is a difficult thing to stomach and new research indicates it can even impact your nervous system.

One arena where rejection is a fact of life is online dating. The reality is that people use online dating for a variety of purposes, and on certain platforms like Tinder, the majority of users view it as a game and not a way to find a serious partner.

We've all been there. Photo credit: Mark Morgan
We’ve all been there. Photo credit: Mark Morgan

With such an unpleasant feeling as rejection bound to impact almost anyone who tries online dating, we thought it a good idea to list the best ways to keep rejection from ruining your day, week or month.

Here are the top three ways we know of to effectively deal with rejection in online dating:

1. Avoid expectations, or at least keep them very low

The best way to limit the disappointment of rejection is to keep your expectations in check in the first place. The odds are you will not meet your future spouse by the first or even tenth person you date.

Think of online dating as a form of social practice, where you have nothing to lose. Be sure to pick a restaurant or event that you have wanted to try regardless of of the date. Learn about the other person, even if you know immediately that he or she will not suit you as a long-term partner. Approaching your date as a learning experience will help quell any feelings of rejection after the fact.

Most of all, assume that the person you are on a first date with likely has other dates lined up after you…and you should follow suit! Avoid attachment after a first, second or even third date. Assume non-exclusivity until it is openly stated and don’t expect to find the perfect partner in a set period of time.

Finally, don’t put other areas of your social life on hold. Remember that you can just as easily meet someone randomly at a coffee shop or bookstore as you can online. In other words, don’t expect online dating to be a cure-all and don’t put all your eggs in the online dating basket. If you do, the feeling of rejection will only be amplified when it inevitably comes to you.

2. Exercise

Don’t stew on an unanswered messages or texts. Get some fresh air and exercise. Science has shown the correlation between exercise and strong mental and emotional health. Not getting a date is a poor reason to be inactive and your lack of activity may make you feel even worse!

Push yourself to leave the house, go to the gym and the benefits to your mood, body and state of mind will all be noticeable. Consider adding yoga and meditation to the mix to train your mind which will pay off when dealing with challenging situations. Consistent exercise will help stabilize your mood, immune system and make you more resilient to life’s ups and downs.

3. Don’t quit…unless you really want to

Keep in mind online dating is the ultimate numbers game. While we don’t encourage you to message everyone on the platform nor accept a date with just anyone who messages you without due diligence, flexibility and patience are keys to a successful online dating experience. Many people send hundreds of messages and go on dozens of dates before finding a partner. While the process can be frustrating, the reward, when and if it comes, could make the time investment worth it.

Don’t quit because you feel uniquely unsuccessful with online dating. Nearly everyone finds it frustrating at times. If however, you do feel frustrated, you may decide to take a break from your site for a few months or switch to a dating platform that might suit you better.

Choose to start or stop online dating on your own terms and regardless of whom you find to date, you can consider yourself a success.

What BeenVerified Customers Say on Facebook

 

Our background check service has been used millions of times and we always love hearing from customers, which is why we maintain such an expansive social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn and Instagram,  as well as our blog.

We love hearing from you on social media. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee
We love hearing from you on social media. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee.

In case you haven’t seen them, here are a few real, recent comments from our customers left publicly on our Facebook page and some of our accompanying thoughts.

“im glad (i’m) with beenverified” -John E. 

We are happy to have customers with us for all their public data needs. BeenVerified can be used more for more than one-time background checks of criminal records. We make it easy for our customers to stay with us for the long-term, with affordable subscription packages so searching for multiple phone numbers, properties and anyone in the U.S.

“Thanks to you all a few years ago I found my birth mother. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Hoping to meet her soon.” -Sarah R.

We love hearing stories about how our data has helped reunite families.

“I have had two episodes of identity theft. Beenverified has the most reliable and accurate information. I recommend this service above any other similar company. Good job.” -Dora J.

 As we wrote recently, identity theft is an increasingly worrying problem for our customers. Our ability to let you search yourself quickly and easily for all the public data about yourself out there will hopefully gives you a leg up on keeping your identity safe.

Are you following us on Facebook and all our other social media platforms? We’d love to hear how BeenVerified has helped you and any questions you have about using public data.

You Won’t Believe What’s In Our New App

 

We’re excited to announce that the latest and greatest version of our iOS app is now available for free in the App Store. You can download it here.

So what’s so special about the new app? Simply put, it offers the most free public data of any source we know of out there. And now we’ve given you more ways to access the information that matters to you most.

With the latest BeenVerified app, you can access more free information on the people you search than ever before.

Search for any person in the U.S. and access:

· Current and past addresses,
· Names of possible relatives and business associates,
· Aliases associated with the person,
· Their phone number (where available)…

…and did we mention all of the above is now free?

But we know you expect more from a BeenVerified background search, so we’ve made premium features available at lower cost and more easily accessible than ever before.

We know spam calls from telemarketers have only gotten worse lately, so we’ve added functionality with the ability to search for any phone number and view that numbers spammer score and view or report any telemarketing abuse from that number. With new, lower-cost subscription plans starting at just $9.99 you can even see the name of the phone number’s owner.

We know your family’s safety is of the utmost importance, so our subscription also gives you access to premium public data including criminal records. You can access a person’s financial history to see if they have any bankruptcies or judgments and see if they’ve failed to pay taxes in the past.

We know identity theft is as great of a concern to you as ever, so we make it easy to research yourself and see if anyone might be using your personal information and acting as an impostor.

But that’s not all. You can use BeenVerified’s iOS app for:

• Estimating market value and taxes for your home, those around you, and any property you might visit.

• Quickly finding social media profiles with just an email address.

BeenVerified’s new iOS app is your source for all the public information out there on any person in the U.S.

Why stay in the dark?

Download the app and run a free search now and check out the screen shots below!

Search for anyone in the US.
Search for anyone in the US.
Find address and phone number information.
Find address and phone number information.
New and improved reverse phone look up.
New and improved reverse phone look up.
Get all the vital stats on a property.
Get all the vital stats on a property.

 

 

Three Big Mistakes You Can Possibly Avoid By Running a Background Check

 

Mistakes: we all make them. But the power of Internet research has helped greatly reduce unneeded and potentially costly mistakes in our lives. Easy access to public data in the form of a background check has made unnecessary mistakes even more avoidable.

Avoid potential mistakes with a background check. Photo credit: Herman Yung
Avoid potential mistakes with a background check. Photo credit: Herman Yung

Here are three examples of potential mistakes you don’t need to make with a quick and affordable background check:

Overpaying for your new home

A background check offers a lot more than information on criminal records. BeenVerified collects and aggregates all the public data available on each person, property, email and phone number available in the US. This makes a background check an immense source of information on a wide variety of topics and can be useful in many situations, including when purchasing a new home.

All you need is an address to gain access to a wealth of information about that property. Notably, you can find current and previous owners, previous sales figures and tax information. This can bolster your research and ensure you don’t overpay for your new home.

For example, a property search can provide insights into the current owner’s financial situation and likely willingness to sell. And by searching neighboring properties, one can get a better idea of if the asking price of a home is overvalued or in line with the average for the neighborhood.

Letting your child ride in the car of an unsafe driver

With children’s activities from sports to extra academic help multiplying by the year, sharing rides with other parents can quickly become a necessity. But should you trust your child’s safety in the car of anyone who happens to be a parent of a child in the same activity? And what criteria can you judge their appropriateness to be around your child? Does a cursory visit of their house suffice?

One way to boost confidence in who you’re dealing with is to search the public records with a background check of the person’s driving record. Fortunately, background checks are now easy, accessible and affordable. They can even be conducted from the palm of your hand with your iOS or Android device.

This gives one the ability to review full criminal records, including speeding and other driving violations of anyone in the US. While a background check can’t give you absolute certainty, it is significantly better than simply judging by appearances when it comes to the well being of your child.

Missing The Signs Your Identity Has Been Stolen

While checking on relative strangers can be important, running a background check on yourself is crucial. Just as credit experts recommend regular check-ups of your credit report in order to avoid mistaken infractions and spot signs of identity theft, so should regular check-ups of all the public data associated with your identity be a part of your routine.

When you run a background check on yourself, ensure all the information is correct. If your name is associated with unknown associates or a number of incorrect relatives then that could be a sign of a larger problem. Likewise, ensure your current and past address information is accurate and that no criminal infractions are attached to your name. If you notice a high number of irregularities, then further research may be needed to ensure no other person is utilizing your details. Check your bank accounts and credit report to confirm if anything is amiss.

Do keep in mind that public record information is often imperfect and is a collection of reports from many disparate sources. What you should be on the lookout for is large-scale inaccuracies and not just an incorrect middle  initial. The more information you can provide in the initial search, such as age, exact location and any variations on your official name should help avoid inconsistencies.

Has a background check helped you avoid a mistake lately? Let us know in the comments.

Can “Grades” Improve Online Dating?

 

Another month brings another new online dating service. This time, it’s The Grade, a new iOS app that aims to build “community of high-quality” daters through using an algorithm to determine how often the daters profiles are liked, the quality and frequency of their messages. Users who receive consistently low grades will eventually be kicked off the platform.

The Grade motivates its users to write better messages and maintain an engaging profile. Or else.
The Grade motivates its users to write better messages and maintain an engaging profile. Or else. Photo credit: Robert Hruzek

In the age of Tinder, The Grade seems like at least a partial antidote to the rapid fire swiping and curt messages that have come to play a large role in online dating today.

But will The Grade’s grading system actually work? We think it could definitely improve the overall pool of daters on the platform, but it’s not likely to be a cure-all, especially when it comes to those dedicated to deception, and it may even encourage it.

Here are some online dater profiles The Grade could likely weed out:

The “Hey” Guy – We all know this type. They send out hundreds (or thousands?) of one-word messages per week to every woman from the age of 18-40, hoping to strike up a conversation (or at least their version of a conversation). The Grade should definitely knock out these monosyllabic, desperate types or at least make them up their conversational games. The question is if you want them to?

The Felipe – You can read more about this type on our previous blog post here, but suffice to say that the type of abuse that is common on Tinder would not win favorable grades.

The Infuriating Obscure Photo Profile – A single, mysterious photo of the back of your head looking at the Ocean. The baseball hat and sunglasses photo. The off-centered selfie. You know these profile photos suck. Just like in college when you turned in that crappy paper in a non-core class, you know this work isn’t good enough. So no one should complain when profile pictures like these receive a failing grade.

Who The Grade likely won’t weed out:

While we’re excited that The Grade’s community policing approach could innovate when it comes to clearing out the dregs and time wasters of online dating, one should keep in mind that the deceptive, emotionally manipulative and high-level con artists thrive on being tested in such a manner.

Someone trying to hide their “true” self will have no problem putting up quality pictures and writing a detailed (albeit false) profile. Likewise, a scammer targeting online daters only needs to be successful once before disappearing (and perhaps reappearing under a new identity).

That’s why it’s always a good idea to consider a background check as part of your due diligence in online dating. The platforms – whether Tinder, Match or The Grade – will change, but your common sense should remain.

What do you think? Will grades improve the online dating experience? Let us know in the comments section.