Keeping Your Personal Information Private
Topics on this page
- Keep your address confidential
- Keeping your internet activities private
- Protecting your email privacy
- Protecting your telephone privacy
- Protecting your cell phone privacy
Keep your address confidential
If you are a survivor of threatened, attempted, or actual domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, or human trafficking OR the parent/guardian of a minor/disabled survivor, OR you reside in the same household as an eligible applicant or program participant, then you may be eligible to enroll in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) to keep your mailing address confidential. The ACP provides:
- a substitute address for survivors who have moved or are about to move to a new location, unknown to their abuser; and
- a free confidential mail-forwarding service for first-class mail and legal papers.
Through the ACP, you designate the Secretary of State as your agent for service of process and for receipt of mail. This means the Secretary of State accepts legal documents on your behalf. You may not avoid legal responsibilities by refusing to accept mail forwarded to you by the ACP because the ACP's receipt of documents is considered your receipt of those documents. You would be legally responsible for obligations contained in all documents at the time of receipt by the ACP.
Survivors of domestic violence are allowed to use a substitute address in place of an actual address when interacting with State or local agencies for four years as enrollment in this program lasts for 4 years unless you or the ACP cancels the enrollment. Learn more about applying for the program.
Keeping your internet activities private
If the person who has abused you has access to a computer that you use, the abuser can access the places you visited online (e.g., bill payments, searches, email, instant messages). Consider using a safe computer, such as computers found at your local library, shelter, or work computer.
Protecting your email privacy
To keep your abuser from being able to read your e-mail without your knowledge, you may want to:
- Consider using a free web-based email account. Your messages are not downloaded to your computer so there is no record for someone else to find. Do not write down your password. Do not ask the system to remember your password.
- If you keep your Internet Service Provider:
- Change your email password to one that your abuser will not know.
- Log out of your email account fully every time you use it.
- Make sure that you are required to enter your password every time you try to access your email. Do not ask the system to remember your password.
- Turn off all auto-login settings.
If your abuser is monitoring your email, it may be a good idea to keep your monitored account active with non-critical or unimportant emails in order to maintain appearances.
Protecting your telephone privacy
Some abusers may try to find out what telephone numbers you have used by pressing “redial” after the you have made a telephone call. If you call a shelter or any other place that you don’t want your abuser to know about, here is what you can do to keep your abuser from finding out where you called:
- Before you make your phone call to the shelter or other place you don't want your abuser to know about, think of a different phone number that you could call afterwards, and that would probably not upset your abuser if s/he were to find out that you called it.
- If your abuser is jealous, you might not want to use any number (such as a grocery store or restaurant) where a live person may respond, in case your abuser thinks that you’re calling someone you’re involved with that works at that number.
- After you call the shelter or other place you don't want your abuser to know about, hang up and then dial the "harmless” phone number.
- After you do that, if your abuser uses the “redial” feature on your telephone, s/he will only find out that you called the “harmless” number (for example a number that states the time and temperature), and not the number of a shelter or a friend.
Be aware that some telephones have longer call history options. Also, your abuser may be able to retried your call history. Consider purchasing a pay as you go phone that you keep in a safe place to allow you to make calls.
Protecting your cell phone privacy
If you have a cell phone and want to keep the records of who you call private, you may want to make those calls from another phone and not from your cell phone. If your abuser has access to your cell phone bill, s/he could easily find out the phone numbers of the people you have called. If your abuser does not have access to your cell phone bill but has access to your cell phone itself, then your abuser may be able to retried your call and text history.
Also be aware that cell phones can have location tracking, meaning that the cell phone can provide your physical location in real time. Consider purchasing a pay as you go phone that you keep in a safe place to allow you to make calls.