Seven ways to rescue your online reputation

A bad reputation can hurt you big time -- especially if it's based on false or malicious information. Here's how to ensure your name isn't mud on the Internet.

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Your online reputation is rapidly becoming at least as important as your offline rep – and will become even more important as our lives get completely sucked into the InterWebs. If you haven’t spent any time managing your online rep, you’re overdue – or in for a big and possibly unpleasant surprise down the road. Here are seven ways to get a handle on your virtual CV.

1. Google yourself early and often. Nothing like a little ego-surfing to find out if somebody has been trashing you online. Be sure to include any logical variations (like Dan, Daniel, Daniel T., Danny-boy, etc) to catch comments from people who knew you when you went by one of those.

Also: If you are signed into a Google account, sign out before you ego surf. Google customizes your results based on your online activities; searching anonymously will produce slightly different results that are more in line with what others will see.

(And if you are being trashed, see steps 6 and 7 below for how to deal with that.)

2. Set up Google Alerts. Now turn your search terms into Google Alerts so you will get pinged via email every time your name shows up. The downside? You will also get alerts about other people who share your name. (I’ve been reading a lot about an Irish livestock breeder named Dan Tynan who just sold a prize lamb for more than $150,000.) It’s a small price to pay, though if you’ve got a common name this could get irritating.

Google Alerts help you keep an ear on what others are saying about you.Google Alerts help you keep an ear on what others are saying about you.

3. Get anti-social. Take a hard look at your Facebook (Twitter, MySpace, etc) pages. If there’s anything on there you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see – like, say, a photo of you drunk and naked save for a sombrero -- think seriously about deleting it. Don’t forget about the things you’ve said on Disqus and other commenting systems. Ultimately you really can’t keep these things totally private, no matter how much you tweak your Facebook settings or how many pseudonyms you use, and social media is one of the first places recruiters and HR folks look.

4. Run your own background check. This will reveal places you’ve lived, property you’ve owned, marriages, divorces, tax liens, and whether you’ve got a rap sheet, filed for bankruptcy, or been sued in civil court, among other things. It’s essentially one-stop shopping for all your dirty laundry.

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