google yourselfThe Internet is no longer a place where people can expect anonymity. Career-oriented sites like LinkedIn urge job seekers to market themselves online to improve their chances of getting hired, and social media puts pressure on everyone from grade school kids to grandparents to share everything from the big moments to the mundane details of their lives as they happen. You might have heard people say you should “Google” yourself, but is this really something you should be doing? The answer is absolutely yes — and while Google’s search engine is a great place to start, there are many other areas of the web worth searching for yourself as well. People search sites are a great place to start, as are the other top search engines — Bing and Yahoo — that someone looking for info on you might try.

What should you search for?

Obviously, your name is a good starting point. Search the name you most commonly use, but don’t forget about any aliases or nicknames you also go by (not to mention maiden names for those who are married). In addition to your name, it’s wise to try your email address and any common usernames you have used in recent years. This is especially important if you’re applying for jobs and want to make sure your employer can’t root out any damaging details through the email address you use to submit your resume.

Parents should also take some time to search for their kids’ names on a regular basis. Child identity theft is a growing problem in the U.S. and it’s never too early to take proactive measures to protect your children’s information. Learn more about this type of identity theft by reading our archives on the topic.

Why should you Google yourself?

Your employer almost definitely will

We live in an age where everyone is online all the time, and employers are well aware of that. A company’s reputation extends to its employees, so it only makes sense that an employer would search for a potential new hire’s name on Google and other search engines before making a final decision. If you’re in the market for a new job, one of the first things you should do before sending out any resumes is to search for yourself and make sure nothing pops up that could hurt your chances at getting hired. Even people who are comfortable in their place of work should make it a habit to search for themselves — you never know what’s out there unless you look, and it’s entirely possible for something damaging to lead to the loss of your job and destruction of your professional reputation.

It’s possible to have information removed

You might be thinking it’s pointless to Google yourself because what you’ll find can’t be removed. While the adage that “the Internet is forever” does certainly hold some truth, it is entirely possible to have derogatory or incorrect search results removed from Google and other sites. Whether it’s an explicit picture that’s been posted without your permission or sensitive personal information that could put you at risk for identity theft, Google makes it easy to request that damaging information be removed from its rankings — or at least prevented from being seen. Likewise, most people search websites have forms you can fill out to request that your information be removed from the site. However, keep in mind, you’re going to have to repeat the process of searching for yourself and filling out removal request forms on a regular basis because this information tends to get re-indexed by these sites over time.

You might be leading identity thieves to your door

Identity theft is a huge problem in the U.S. as well as the world over, and the Internet certainly has helped this criminal practice flourish. From the information easily accessed on social media and people search sites to other less-than-savory underground methods of cataloging your personal information, there’s a lot to be found on most people if you know how to look for it. You can’t possibly find and destroy everything out there on you, but you can at least keep tabs on what’s easily found by searching for yourself on a regular basis. For help keeping track of whether or not your sensitive data is being posted, traded, sold or otherwise illegally used online, you can invest in an identity theft protection service. For less than $20/month, the top-rated services will scour the Internet’s black market and other databases to alert you to any misuse of your information (and they’ll also help you with the process of recovery in the event you become a victim of identity theft).

To learn more about identity theft protection services, read our in-depth reviews and follow our blog for more tips on keeping yourself safe online and off.