Dont Publish Your Physical Address!

When the CAN-SPAM Act first hit the 'net, we were required to put our physical mailing address on all emails that were sent out through our opt-in mailing lists. This was originally interpreted to mean that PO Boxes could not be used, only the physical location of the sender/business.

That was later addressed (no pun intended) by the FTC. Unfortunately most people dont realize that a Post Office Box is now considered perfectly acceptable to use in your mailings. And of those that do, a certain percentage believe that a PO Box is 'unprofessional' and/or that it will affect your relationship-building and conversion rates.

But here's a reason NOT to publish your physical address...

Up until CAN-SPAM, I used a post office box for my business and was happy with that arrangement. But when CAN-SPAM went into effect it was originally believed, as I stated above, that we must use our physical locations mailing address only. And so I did.

I didnt think much of it, not having had 'an incident' in the 10 years I've been working online. I have to admit that it was very convenient to have all of my mail delivered directly to my home office too.

But this week I had someone show up at my home. :-|

It was a Wednesday evening, my daughter's birthday in fact. We were all having dinner and doing our 'usual thing' when I heard an unexpected knock at the back door. And there stood a man who had found me online and wanted to speak to me in person.

I was put off, a little shocked and perturbed - but then, who wouldnt be? I'm standing there in a tank top and shorts, hair in a pony tail, a mouthful of lasagna, and kids waiting on me to get ready to go.

This is my home. I happen to work from my home office, sure, but this is the place I let my hair down. The place I raise my children. I dont have to tell you this, I'm sure - you know exactly what I mean. It was a major violation in my book.

Now the guy was harmless, I'll admit - Nice, even I suppose. His explanation for showing up was that I hadnt returned his calls or responded to his email message, both of which he had waited 24 hours to hear back from me on.

Do I owe him my time? No, of course not. But I felt that was the insinuation - 'since you didnt answer my phonecalls or reply to my emails, I thought I would try catching you at home'.

I guess I should just be happy he didnt catch me sunbathing, napping, hanging my undergarments out on a clothesline (lol I dont do that anyway :P ) or something along those lines.

Still, I couldnt help thinking that it could have been anyone. I think of how free we have felt here, the kids coming and going, playing outside, that kind of thing. And all of a sudden I feel incredibly vulnerable. The 'visit' was harmless, sure, but how do I really know that the next person wont be casing me out or some kind of freak or pedofile. Geez.

I've put a lot of thought into this over the last 48 hours. Obviously I am getting another PO Box and will be publishing that instead of my physical address from this point forward. Which means I have quite a bit of updating/editing to do across the board - domain registrations, mailing list settings, all of my websites, etc.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I have to move. Everything is cached, or otherwise accessible in one way or another (archives people have stored from their email, you name it). I was planning to move next year anyway, as this was a temporary spot to think and rest after my grandmother passed. Of course, now I'm feeling a major sense of urgency on the matter.

Dont get me wrong. I'm not fooled into thinking that any situation will bring a complete sense of security. People can get the information, follow you home from the post office, you name it. Someone with bad intentions will find a way to carry them out, regardless.

But I certainly dont like the idea of being a sitting duck.

Is Security & Privacy an issue to you? How available do you make yourself? Feel free to leave your thoughts below...

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»

Discussion

  1. Hi Lynn
    Sorry to hear about the scare, I can understand how you feel, I often feel a little vulnerable myself when it comes to running a web site. As well as publishing your address don't forget also that people can look up your web site's whois info and get your address that way if you used your physical address to register your web site.

  2. You're right, and as I mentioned above I have a big job ahead of me updating all of the contact information across the board. Ugh.

    Lesson learned!

  3. WOW!

    That's freaky Lynn!

    On one hand you have to give the guy credit for being persistent, however you really should never show up to anyone's home uninvited. I am glad you are safe and it was just a scare, but I don't blame you one bit for being upset about it, I know I would be! Especially on my daughter's birthday! That's really unacceptable that he did that.

  4. I dont know if 'persistent' is the right word. I havent quite decided yet. I'm leaning more towards 'insistent'. :P

  5. Gosh, that is scary Lynn. Seriously. Though, as you put it, he was a nice guy, he could just as easily been a whack job.

    A while back, I wrote an entry on my blog called Why I Don't Publish My Physical Contact Information because some people actually asked why I didn't divulge it.

    For the longest time, I wondered how come you published your address so openly on all of your websites and thought maybe it was an office space.

    I'm glad to hear that you're going back to using a PO Box, which I believe is a good option for home-based business owners. The only thing I'd be worried about is the internet cache. Hopefully you don't have any more uninvited guests.

    ~ Teli

  6. This IS freaky - and I would consider the guy a whack job for showing up, period. Completely unacceptable - especially after just 24 hours.
    I'm glad your moving to PO Box - some people just don't know where the line is on privacy. I provide 3 emails addresses, an 800 number and a PO Box for customer support - I think that's fair.
    I want to provide good support, but it has to be on my terms. If I want somebody yankin' my chain at their beck and call, I might as well get a real job...(yikes!)

  7. Hi Lynn,

    Glad to hear that in your case, all turned out well.

    I addressed this issue after the murder of Bobbi Jo Stinnett in 2004, who had operated a business online and met clients offline. We published an article in our safety section with pointers for anyone involved in on and offline business, at: http://www.chatmag.com/help/business_meeting.html

  8. Wow...this story really made me stop and think.

    I need to think about a PO box as well.

    What a nut job showing up like that at your home...that's so creepy. Glad you are OK, but I would also feel very unsettled by a visit like that.

  9. Ellen C Braun says:

    Wow, that is totally freaky!

    And it gets me thinkin'... about unpleasant, yet necessary steps I need to take...

  10. Kimberly Carter says:

    I heard about it first from Miles Baker on the eweatlh forum. I'm so sorry to hear this Lynn. I hope you are okay, and I do not blame you for moving. I would be the same way. I just hate that it speeded up the process though. Big hugs from me hun

    Kimmy

  11. Hello Lynn.
    For as long as I've owned my own business, I have used a Mailboxes Etc address/box for my business address (now a UPS store). In fact, it's my businesses' legal address.
    I have a physical address elsewhere, but I get NO mail there. Nor is it listed anywhere except for utilities and other things that require it.
    Your story, and those like it, are a big part of that. CAN-SPAM be damned, I just ain't gonna do otherwise.
    --Mark Widawer
    author, http://www.LandingPageCashMachine.com

    Note: Adding an address at the bottom of a sales letter or website gives someone confidence that you're a 'real' entity and actually increases conversions. I think a PO box address doesn't give the same impression. Using a PMB (personal mail box), which you can legally write with a number sign (ie #123 vs PO 123), looks much better.

  12. Hi Lynn,

    One good thing about staying in a "co-operative society" is the security. No one can knock on my door without the security guard checking them out. :)

    Getting a PO Box is a great idea. But with today's technology, a persistent person can - with some effort - find out where you stay (electricity, cell phone details etc) (There are mailing lists that rent out addresses of people who have just moved too).

    I recommend giving people an outlet: coffee hour.

    Once a week or something - people who want to meet you can come at a cafe at a determined time. Give them a way to contact you at your convenient time and in your convenient place - and they won't hassle you at your home.

    Plus - coffee hours are great for business too.

  13. I appreciate all the comments here - thank you. It was meant as less of a vent and more of a 'reality check' for others who work from home, though admittedly I was upset. But in the end, we're in as much 'danger' from our neighbors or a local stranger as we are from someone that finds us online. That's life.

    RE: Coffee Break - this is a cool idea actually. I agree that it would be 'good for business' if you were in a service-based business or were looking for new customers/clients.

    I'm not in that position myself though, and am at a point in my life where I enjoy my coffee with a good book and a nice dose of solitude ;)

  14. I have to agree with Lynn - the coffee break idea really is a good one.

    Not just from a business perspective, but it can also be a way to meet like-minded individuals and have a back and forth session similar to a book club. :)

    ~ Teli

  15. Oh my, Lynn! That would have freaked me out, too. I've been using a UPS type of store since going into business and am glad that I do.

    I agree with Ankesh, too. If an individual really wants to find out where we live, they probably can, but I don't think most people wouldn't go through that much effort.

    Patty

  16. Lynn,

    I agree with the post from Children's Help above. In fact I was going to offer the same advice myself. Please be careful. You really can't know the character or intent of this man. Bad guys are masters at being nice and befriending victims.

    I'm not trying to deliberately scare you. But I don't think you should let your guard down. Do contact the police.

    It's a great time to move!

  17. Steve Green says:

    Hi Lynn,

    Read your Clicknewz report with great interest, I have a couple of children - both girls - in their teens, and though we live in a relatively quiet part of the world (NZ), it's getting less secure, and the dangers to children are becoming evident even in our little backwater country.

    I recently got the following message from a friend who had encountered a problem with her children and chatrooms - though the text is related to someone else, it shows clearly how dangerous it can be, to leave unsupervised kids with access to chat rooms.
    Please read this - it's a serious lesson for us all!

    http://fire-the-b0ss.blogspot.com/2006/09/online-dangers.html

    Regards,
    Steve

  18. Lynn,
    Yes, there's all sorts of wackadoodles out there, and you were lucky that you got one of the harmless ones. I also noted what Jackie said, and people are most certainly not WYSIWYG.

    This is a wakeup call for many of us as home-based, online business owners. Thanks for sharing this.

  19. Tom Brownsword says:

    Hi Lynn,

    You don't know me, but I found your web address over at Willie Crawford's forum and decided to just show up and knock on your door...

    Seriously, thanks for sharing this event with others. You are entitled to your privacy and entitled to separate your business life from your personal life.

    Best regards,
    Tom

  20. Lynn,

    So sorry to hear about your intrusion - and yes that's exactly what it was. I don't even feel comfortable visiting family members without calling ahead! Persistance is definitely not the word. 24 hours?! That was just an excuse. Nice or not (thank goodness he was nice) he had absolutely no right to do what he did.

    I had been in conflict with whether or not to publish my address as I started developing my sites. I even thought I should use a po box outside of my town just to be safe. But I finally checked what certain people were doing with their sites and decided I was being paranoid and did not need a po box. I'm sorry that this happened to you, but it's all the proof I need that my initial instincts were right. I'm not using my own address (though I am going to check out what the UPS store offers after reading some of the above comments).

    Christy

  21. Nancy P Redford says:

    Hi Lynn,

    Your story is a shocking revelation of how easy it is for anyone to call on us if we provide our raw home address online.

    I have always used a business mail forwarding service for two main reasons:

    1) I felt my home address did not convey a professional image

    2) I have moved house several times and would raise visitor confidence if they found 5 different addresses registered to me online

    Then of course there is privacy and safety issues!

    In the UK any member of the public can request the full address of ANY PO BOX number so personally I would not use this service. For a little bit more I can get a business mail forwarding address with NO direct links to my home and that suits me just fine.

    Best wishes and stay safe online and at home,
    Nancy

  22. I try to register my domain names with private registration and removed my physical address from my site a while ago.

    Like you I thought I had to list my physical address on my Email messages. Looks like I can get a P.O. Box now!

    Thanks for the tip.

    Michael

  23. I'm sorry you were unnerved when someone came to your door. I think the hardest thing to do is tell someone that our homes are private and .. go away!

    I understand how it feels to have someone show up at our doors. I had it happen myself, and I walked out of the house, with my keys in my hand, locked the door, got him away from the house and in the open and told him he had 5 minutes of my time. He knew that I had a home office, but wanted to talk to me. (he never called because I charge for a consult!). I felt very weird for a while. However, the possiblty of it happening again is high.

    In my state, anyone can get my home address from the state web site of business owners.

    Then addresses show up in other places. Organizations I belong to sell mailing lists. Then there are the chambers . One situation that occured was that I asked and it was agreed to leave my address out of the directory and web site. However, someone sees it missing and adds it back.

    To me, what you've reminded me about is that there are some risks of owning a home business. If I had not thought about it before my situation happens, who knows how I would have acted. Next time, there will no 5 minutes of talking. I'll give them my business card and tell them to email me during business hours.

  24. So I guess I should call first before dropping by? But what if my intention is to catch you hanging up those undergarments??

  25. Hmmm...

    Well then I guess you'll meet my new pit bull & shotgun ;)

  26. In short...

    HOLY SH-CRAP!

    The only question I have is...

    How good is your customer service? Did you invite him in for lasagna? :P

    Be safe,

    Jason

  27. Not very good... and No :| LOL

  28. At least the weirdo showed up during daylight. A couple I know live in the country and one night at around 10:30 they saw headlights coming up their private road. "Who can that be at this hour?" They were wondering. It was some weirdo who thought they would invite him in for coffee, etc. Some people are just a few cans short of a six pack.

    Always use the UPS store. I've tried PO Boxes, rented small offices, etc. The UPS Store is the best option by far. And their employess are used to fielding these odd folks who just show up. They will sometimes ask "Did you call first? (obviously not) Did you have an appointment?" I used to give the UPS store folks business cards to hand out, it had a phone number on it that went to a voice mail that said you have to make an appointment if you want to see me in person and I charge a lot of money, etc.

    Everybody use the UPS Store okay? :)

  29. Oops I forgot to mention the voicemail that I use. It is http://www.accessline.com/ and not I don't get a commission. For only $8.95 a month it gives me a public phone and fax number that cannot be traced to my home. Plus nobody is calling my cell phone and bugging me at 5 in the morning. This service also sends me an email every time I get a message. You can have it forward to you and answer the calls if you want, or just let the voicemail answer them. You can also look at the call log and see that some telemarketing machine has been calling you hundreds of times but your voicemail stops them, heh heh heh. :)

    I've had this for years and it works awesome, along with the UPS Store address, you have a good combination.

    Hope that is helpful. Let's all be careful out there and watch out for each other.

    Mark

  30. I finally got myself a PO box for our business. I read this post when you first wrote it and it really stuck with me. We live out in the sticks and I figured nobody would bother coming all the way out here uninvited, but then again we've run into some real whackos on eBay who behave like it's their personal vendetta to do you in if things don't go the way they expected. Anyway, for the safety of my family, I removed our physical address. Thanks for the heads up. ;)

  31. Mary Mary says:

    If you really want to maximize the unliklihood of people bothering you at your home-based, internet-based business, you have to use a combination of PO box (or UPS store address) and a pseudonym and you must NEVER associate your real name or address with your business or pseudonym EVER, especially on the internet where things get logged forever (or at least for a long time).

  32. Mary Mary says:

    BTW, as far as whois info, most hosts provide whois prviacy services. Namecheap offers if free for the first year and it's very cheap every year after that.

    As far as this guy being "nice'. That's insane. the fact that he showed up to your place at all shows insanity IMHO. Not only that but he only waited 24 hours to hear back from you. That isn't a whole lot of time.

    I say this dude was insane. Just because he came across as "nice' means nothing. Many insane whackos come across as what people think of as "nice' but really what they are is shy yet deranged.

    I say you got lucky. Coulda been a nasty situation.

  33. Interesting point, Mary - because that's exactly what I tell my 10 year old daughter about "grown-ups who seem nice" - referring to strangers that may approach her, etc...

  34. Tishia Lee says:

    Wowsers! That's absolutely crazy. I can't figure out why he even thought that showing up at your house was ok. Just reminds me that there are weirdos out there and, now that I'm in the process of setting up a mailing list, to not publish my home address, etc.

  35. My address shows up in online searches, online directories, and on my credit report as a business address. I have contacted several of the directories and have had it removed and I am spending days on this but there is a long trail. Does anyone know where this information is coming from and how can I remove it completely?

  36. Marya Miller says:

    That's disturbing, Lynn. I'd be majorly creeped, if it happened to me.

    On a lighter note, back when I had a horse farm, a young couple - cyclists with breath-takingly expensive bikes, gear and outfits - knocked on my door one evening to ask brightly if they could "sleep in the hay" for the night in my barn.

    Now, this was no picturesque, old Norman Rockwell hay barn - it was a show stable, and I had highly strung show jumpers under tight security in them thar loose boxes. The only "hay" in there was in the horses's stalls - and they were eating it for supper, thank you very much. The insurance risk alone boggles the mind, let alone leaving 2 people who had obviously never seen a horse in their lives to spend the night alone with mine, sleeping on my horses' breakfasts. Without a washroom (betcha they would have brightly knocked and asked to take showers, next).

    So I was left startled and boggled on the doorstep. They seemed deeply hurt and even more surprised than I was, when I impulsively blurted out: "Absolutely not!"

    These two city newbs obviously had some romantic vision in their wee heids. But when I said the words "insurance", the man's face cleared and he said, as if A Great Light Was Dawning: "Of COURSE!" (The woman was muttering: "They have insurance on *barns*?")

    But it all goes to show, ya just never know who's going to be standing there, wanting a favor, when you answer those unsolicited knocks.

  37. I understand this completely. And i will be doing this the next time i move. For i have had a Stalker by the name of Daniel Selby. He has been stalking me and my Daughter and my Grandsons since 2008. It all started when i wrote a comment about Marie Osmond in Daniel's Marie Osmond News Topix Blog. This guy took it personal and started insulting me, making fun of my deceased Mother and making filthy comments about my Grandsons and Daughter. He got a hold of my personal pics and email on MYSPACE and starting writing Marie with my name attached. So now she assumes it's me because he gave her a bunch of Osmond Collectiables and she made the mistake of inviting the Idiot to dinner. Now they're best buds . The bad part is that he knows exactly where I live and has published it online (My guess is that he paid alot of money to find out or someone gave it to him.) He also published that he lives in the same neighborhood as I do. Another scare tactic from him, beside writing to people he thinks knows me and asking exactly where I live. The guy is a nut and the Police here say i can't do anything until he approaches me physically..this would be a very bad idea on his part. The really bad part is that the guy spent time in, let's say, places that cater to people who make-believe a lot. To prove my point, he has a resume on IMDB for which none of it is truth. Anyway, I am glad I know what to do about this Stalker or anyone else who decides to bother me. Thanx

  38. Don't worry Lynn, I really lied about all that just to see if I could get away with it! Glad to trick you all! I'll be back as another personality soon! I was really the one in LA LA land! Tee Hee!

  39. So what was the bad thing that happened here? An eccentric but otherwise harmless person showed up at your house to ask you a question? And the fact that your address exists in the public domain means that you are going to – let me get this straight – move to a different neighborhood?

    Am I only one who thinks this is a huge overreaction? It used to be that people routinely published their physical addresses in the phone book. They weren't terrified of the bogeyman coming for supper.

    Obviously there are creepy people out there, but please: a little perspective. The chance of someone deciding to cause harm to you or your family after coming across your profile on an ecommerce website is vanishing to nothing. You expose yourself to vastly greater risk every time cross the road.

    And I think it’s sad, frankly, that we seem to have become so suspicious as a society. When every metric tells us we are growing safer, and that violent crime is decreasing, why do we continue to feel more afraid?

  40. A quick update to this archived post... I have two new videos on my personal video blog that you'll enjoy :D

    http://www.lynnterry.tv/301/trolls/

    http://www.lynnterry.tv/307/privacy/

    See you there!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Dont Publish Your Physical Address! It was a Wednesday evening, my daughter’s birthday in fact. We were all having dinner and doing our ‘usual thing’ when I heard an unexpected knock at the back door. And there stood a man who had found me online and wanted to speak to me in person. [...]

  2. [...] And then of course there was the recent visit from a man who needed some help with his online ventures. When I didnt reply to my email within 24 hours, he decided to show up at my home. [...]

  3. [...] As you know by now, from my recent surprise visitor post, I treasure my privacy. But the truth is, being easily located and then surprised with an unexpected visit is just one of the many scenarios we might expect these days. [...]

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  5. [...] when I had someone show up at my back door one [...]

  6. [...] anyone to see…forever.  Don’t think anyone’s checking?  Ask Lynn Terry about publishing your address.  She thought she was safe too until one day when she was surprised to have an unexpected guest [...]

  7. [...] is the September 2006 blog post I was referring to in the video: Don’t Publish Your Physical Address! So let’s talk. What’s your take on rude comments, people who are totally out of line, [...]

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