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The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

A question I have been asked several times now is “How can I disappear?” That question was asked in the context of getting rid of spam emails and telemarketer phone calls. The people asking the question had been overwhelmed with hundreds of spam emails daily and had found that simply changing their email address had been less than effective because some of the spam followed them. Fortunately, there are some actions anyone can take, and some free services available to help cope with this maddening situation.

In the most extreme cases, some people find it necessary to change their phone number and get a new email address, but most will not have to go that far. If you do close an email account, the first thing to do is obfuscate any personal information. Change your name to Yastrzhembsky Schmidlap, change your birth date and phone number, and change the answers to all your security questions to complete nonsense. If you choose to delete your email or social network account, the best guide I have seen recently was found on Go there and search for “How to Close or Delete Your Email or Social Network Accounts Permanently.”

If you would rather keep your email address, some websites can help you by unsubscribing from as much spam as possible. (dot “me” not dot “com”) asks permission to access your email account, then reads all your emails using the same techniques used by hackers, then turns the tables on them. It is then up to you if you want to delete your email account or keep it by letting try to clean things up. does the work for you, and where it cannot, it will take you to the appropriate page where you can unsubscribe manually. Another service is (again, dot “me” not dot “com”) where you will find a huge index of sites you may have signed up for, along with steps on how to unsubscribe those accounts. Another good site is where you can try to unsubscribe from legitimate advertisers. Remember that most spammers will not honor your request, and others for only a short respite.

Reclaiming your personal information from the clutches of data brokers is the most daunting task of all. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Intelius, Acxiom, PeopleFinder—these are but a few of the companies in business to accumulate, monetize, and sell your personal information. By law, these companies are required to remove illegally shared information such as Social Security numbers, but they do not make this process quick or easy. Google can eliminate outdated links that pertain to you in online searches. It is a simple request at, but be aware Google’s focus here is improving the accuracy of its searches and not necessarily scrubbing the information you would rather not be there.

Finally, if you ever receive any mail addressed to Yastrzhembsky Schmidlap, you will know for sure that the information from that email account you closed is still being sold to advertisers.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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