Posted on: 7 December 2017
The internet has made it easier for people to start businesses and find customers to pay for their goods and services. Unfortunately, it has also made it easier for bad actors to locate personal information on those business owners and use it to extract vigilante justice. In today's highly politicized atmosphere, one wrong word could result in you being doxxed and subjected to the associated consequences, so here are three tips for protecting your personal information from internet mobs.
Incorporate Your Business in a Protective State
In the past, registering a corporation would have provided quite a bit of privacy. To get information about who owned a company, you would've had to contact the state agency directly, which only the most determined person is generally willing to do. These days, however, you can look up who owns a corporation simply by visiting a website, meaning even the least tech-savvy person can access your contact information.
Thus, it's not enough to simply form a corporation or LLC. You need to do it in a state that either doesn't allow public access to filing records or doesn't require companies to list the names of their members or managers, and only a few states fit this description.
Delaware is the most well-known. This state doesn't require company owners to provide information about members or managers on the Certificate of Formation. Instead, you can list a Registered Agent who will service as your contact for any correspondence sent to you by the state or other people who access your company information. Be aware, though, the state does require you to list the names and addresses of members when you pay your franchise tax.
Wyoming and New Mexico are two other states that don't require member or manager names to be listed on publicly available documents, but you will be required to pay corporate tax if you register in those states. Additionally, if you don't live in any of the states mentioned, you may be required to register as a foreign corporate in the state where you live in order to do business there. It's best to consult with a corporate attorney for all the details regarding this option so you know what to expect.
Privatize as Much of Your Online Dealings as Possible
The second thing you need to do to protect yourself online is to privatize as much as you can online. For instance, purchase privacy services for your domain names. Instead of your personal or company information showing up in the domain registration database, the registration companies name and address will appear. This prevents any bad actors from learning who you are and where to find you just by looking up your domain name on the WHOIS database.
In fact, you should use your business name and address for anything you purchase online for your company. If you buy web hosting, for instance, make sure the name, address, and payment method you use are all associated with your business rather than your personal information. Additionally, if you use a payment processor like Paypal, for instance, upgrade to a business account so your company's name will show on transactions rather than your personal name.
Use a VPN When Surfing Online
If you run your business from your home, it's important that you use a VPN (virtual private network) when accessing websites on the internet. This is because, wherever you go online, the sites you visit log your IP address. This address can be traced to your physical location (or within a few miles), which is the last thing you want to have happen when you have people trying to stalk you. A VPN assigns you a new IP that may originate from another state or even another country, which will make it difficult for people to track you down.
There are many more things you can do to protect your privacy while doing business online. Contact a corporate attorney for more tips or help with this issue.Share