Are You Making it Too Easy for Companies to Get Your Personal Information?

If you are getting calls or emails from companies you’ve never heard of and wondering how they got your name or number — or how they know what you’re interested in, the reason might be lead generation.

Today’s blog is meant to help you understand how they get your information in the first place:

Lead generation is when companies gather information that people submit, often from online forms or applications. Lead generators sell that information to other companies offering products or services those people might be interested in.

It’s your information getting collected and sold, and it might pass through a lot of hands along the way.

The upside is you might find out about products or services you’re interested in, and get deals you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.

The downside is, even if you know you’re giving information to a lead generator — like a site that matches people seeking loans with lenders — you might not realize your info could be sold and resold. If it’s sold to anyone willing to pay for it, you might be contacted by all kinds of companies you’ve never heard of.

Sometimes, lead generation also results in deception or outright scams. Last year the FTC sued a company that got people’s information from online payday loan applications, then sold it to non-lenders who raided people’s credit and bank accounts for millions. In another case, a company settled charges that it used fake job ads to get leads for colleges and career training programs.

The key is–Before you fill out forms or applications on a site, find out more about the company — on the site itself, and by doing an online search for the company with words like “complaint” or “review.” How will they protect your information? And think long and hard before you give out your Social Security Number or bank or credit card information. In the wrong hands, they can lead to identity theft. If you think information you’ve already shared has been misused, report it right away to the FTC and local police.

For more on best practices in Identity theft protection, please visit or

by Judith