You don’t have to be a celebrity to have stalkers. As an artist, especially if you’re a woman, putting yourself out there on stage or even behind the screen on social media, generates a lot of attention, making you a potential target of identity theft or a victim of stalking or harassment.
As you become more established as an independent artist, it’s very important for you to think about your safety and security. Stalking can happen to anyone and the tools available on the internet make it easier than ever for someone to find out personal information about you and track what you are doing. Even if you aren’t celebrity famous, someone who may not be the most mentally or emotionally stable might take an unhealthy interest in you.
I decided to put this little guide together after learning that an artist I work with had issues with stalkers in the past. More recently, she had a guy reach out to her and say some weird, disturbing things that made her concerned about her safety.
This is not meant to be an in-depth guide, but more to go over some basic steps you can take to help protect your privacy online, so you are aware of what personal information may be exposed online for others to see.
1. Use a stage name
This is an obvious one that you should know, but I just want to point out that there are good reasons why stage names exist. Chances are you already have a stage or artist name that you’ve been using for your music career. Use your stage name on channels you control, like your website and social media accounts. This ensures that your real name is not publically displayed. This is not going to deter anyone from learning of your real identity, but it definitely adds a layer of protection.
Or maybe you’ve established a career using your real name. If that’s the case, then this step can be disregarded, but you’ll definitely want to pay attention to the next point.
In case you’re just starting off, be sure to read my blog on how to choose the right stage name for you.
2. Remove your personal information from people finder sites
Many people don’t know how much of their personal information is available for just about anyone to search for and access. All of this information about you is compiled legally and made available on various sites, ranging from background checks to helping people find old friends and family members.
To educate yourself on what people can easily learn about you, try going to a popular search engine like Google and search your real full name and the city you live in. If it’s very common, try searching with your artist/stage name.
What may follow is a list of the top sites you should work on removing your personal information from. First, start by going to each site and searching your name to find what personal information is being made available to the public. If you find personal information you don’t want people to know, follow the directions on how to opt-out of those sites.
Tip: Some sites will require you to create an account or provide an email address to send an opt-out email. Use a burner email address that you don’t regularly use or create a new one for this purpose. This helps ensure that your privacy is protected and they aren’t going to spam you.
Spokeo – https://www.spokeo.com
This one is relatively easy. Find your profile by searching the site with your full name. You will need the URL of your exact profile on Spokeo and an email address. Once you have those two things, opt-out here on this page:
Radaris – https://radaris.com
This process is a bit more tedious. You may need a phone number and email address. The idea is to take control of your profile and remove specific records.
Removal Instructions: https://radaris.com/page/how-to-remove
PeopleSmart – https://www.peoplesmart.com
You will need an email address for this. Go to the link below to start. You’ll just need to search for your exact profile and provide an email address to opt out.
TruthFinder – https://www.truthfinder.com
Follow the directions in the link below. You’ll need to search and locate your profile. Click on ‘Remove this record.’
BeenVerified – https://www.beenverified.com
Search for your profile in the link below. You will need to provide an email address.
PeopleFinders – https://www.peoplefinders.com
Search your name and find your listing. Once you click on the ‘This is Me’ link, there should be a button labeled ‘Opt out my info.’ Follow the next few steps, and you are done; no email or account is required.
MyLife – https://www.mylife.com
There are two ways to remove your information from this site. I found calling and telling them you want to delete your profile was actually the easiest way. Call their Customer Care toll free at 1-888-704-1900, Mon-Fri 6am-7pm PST, Sat-Sun 6am-5pm PST.
Whitepages – https://www.whitepages.com/
You have to remove yourself from the free and premium listing. Here are instructions on how to do that.
To do it on their website, you have to locate your profile and go through the claiming process.
Follow the directions in the link below to opt-out. You will need to provide some form of ID and an email address.
Advanced Background Checks – https://www.advancedbackgroundchecks.com
This one is easy, since you don’t need any extra information, like an email address. First, find your listing with the link below. Once you locate it, click on ‘Opt out my info’.
For any other sites
If you come across other sites not listed here that contain personal information, search the name of the site and add the keywords ‘opt out’ to find instructions on how to remove your information.
3. Get domain name privacy
If you pay for your domain name using your own finances, your information may be publically available.
ICANN’s WHOIS is an online service that publically provides contact information about who has registered for a domain name for anyone to search for in a public directory. It provides information, such as full name, address, phone number and email address.
To see if you are listed, search your domain name here: https://whois.icann.org/en.
Web services where you register your domain name will usually give you an option to make your contact information private if you pay an extra fee every year. Depending on what web hosting service you use, the cost can range from $10 to $20 annually.
Not only does paying for this service hide your contact information, but it may help reduce spam and marketing phone calls.
4. Delay Posting your Instagram and Snapchat Stories
Instagram and Snapchat Stories are great social media tools that help show a more personal side of you as an artist. But they can also be used for others to figure out where you are, especially if you’re using location tags or stickers on Instagram.
If you have some suspicion that someone may be stalking you, you may want to delay posting until you are no longer in that area or location. In cases where you know the exact person, block them from your social media account. You may still want to delay posting videos that show your location because it’s easy for someone you blocked to set up a secondary account using a fake name.
5. Use a P.O. box
If you use an email marketing service like Mailchimp, you should know that you’re technically supposed to provide a physical mailing address or P.O. box in the footer of all your emails. Not having this violates anti-spam laws.
I mention this because you may not realize that your home address is being exposed to your fans when you send your email newsletter. I know that the templates available on Mailchimp automatically display your physical address in the email footer. This is common with email marketing services, so if you sign up with an account using your home address, it may be displayed for your fans to see.
If you want to be compliant and protect yourself, you should sign up for a P.O. box at your local post office or try these alternatives. It just needs to be an address that you can get access to receive mail.
A big benefit of having a physical address in the footer is to improve the deliverability of your email newsletter. Spam filters will check for a physical address to evaluate if an email is spam, so this helps make sure your newsletter will be delivered to your fan’s inbox and not filtered into their spam folder.
6. Use stronger passwords
Surprisingly, there are still many people who use very basic passwords, like ‘password’ or ‘123456.’ The last thing you want is for a stalker or hacker to have access to your email account or any other site that may have sensitive information.
At the very least, use passwords that contain a number, symbol, and capital letter. Security experts also suggest to change them often.
Try not to have one standard password you use for all sites and accounts. Personally, I use different passwords depending on the type of site. I have one separate password for social media sites and a different set for anything related to e-commerce. My banking password is unique, and I have a different password for my email accounts.
Also, be sure to activate 2-step verification so you are required to verify your identity with a call or text to your phone. This can prevent a hacker from signing into your account even with a password.
7. Manage Privacy Settings on Facebook
As we all know, Facebook has a lot of information on us, much of which we volunteer. It’s a great tool to keep in touch with our friends and family, but it’s important to manage your privacy settings. You want to control or limit the information or photos the public can access. Although your business Facebook page should be your main point of contact for fans, you don’t anyone to be able to find your personal account.
To manage this, go to your privacy settings:
If you need more information, check out the link below:
I’m not a cybersecurity expert, but these were some things I noticed as an online marketing professional that could compromise an artist’s personal information. At the end of the day, there’s no sure way of avoiding stalkers, but I think taking these basic steps will remove any easy ways for people to access private information about you.
If anyone does harass you or make you feel uncomfortable online, report and block them. Be sure to file a police report and document all the contact you’ve had with the person.