5 ways to defend and enhance your Google reputation

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The Internet can be your biggest enemy when it comes to reputation. Identity theft, libel, defamation, mistaken identity, and youthful indiscretions can all find themselves on to the Web and affect your chances of a job or promotion, purchasing a house or even finding the love of your life. We find out just how you can protect your reputation on the Internet.

Opt out early and often

By reducing the amount of junkmail you receive, you make yourself a smaller target for identity thieves and others who can mess with your reputation. (One of identity thieves' favourite tricks is to sign up for a change of address in your name, so they can re-route pre-approved credit card offers to your "new address".)

Though there's almost no way of getting your junk quotient down to zero, taking your name off marketing lists will nuke 50 to 75 percent of it. The easiest way? Register with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). This free service deletes your name from 95 percent of the US's direct mailing lists, which are the source of much of today's junk mail.

Do your own background check

There is a treasure trove of information about you freely available to anyone who knows how to look for it. Do you own property? Have you ever been late with your tax payments? Arrested? Divorced? In most states, that information is in the public record, and much of it is available online for a fee. When an employer does a background check on you, this is the kind of stuff that turns up, so at the very least you want to make sure the information is accurate.

Order a free credit check from either Veda Advantage or Dun & Bradstreet -- you can get the details from The Office of the Privacy Commissioner. This information shows up when you try to open a new credit card, buy a mobile phone or rent an apartment. Unfortunately, credit reports are notoriously inaccurate. A 2004 study by the US Public Interest Research Group found that one in four reports contains an error serious enough to deny you credit or employment. So you'll want to review and correct them as needed.

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Dan Tynan

PC Advisor (UK)

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