Did you know that in many cases, anyone can do a simple web search of your name, license plate, or vehicle identification number (VIN), and find your phone number, home address, family member names, and other personal information—for free? Most people are either oblivious to this, or they know but simply don’t care. However, there are steps you can take to protect your personal information. The five smartphone apps described in this article are a way to secure your data.

With every digital purchase you make or online account you create, your personal information is being gathered and shared—often sold—and your personal information will soon be on countless websites for any identity thief, ex-lover, stalker, or any random person who might be curious about who you are and where you live. The threat doesn’t always begin online. For an extreme example, a police officer parks his vehicle in his driveway after his shift ends. If the car is registered under his name, a threat could walk by and gather the license plate number or VIN to search online for the officer’s name, family member names, and phone number—putting them all at risk in multiple ways.

So, what can you do to prevent this? Going completely off the digital grid is not a quick or cheap process, but it can be done with some effort through using aliases and trusts. The first basic step is to stop willingly putting your information out there. This can be by changing your social media and online shopping habits, among other ways. Assuming your personal information is already out there, there are manual steps and third-parties to ensure that it is removed from public space. After having your information removed, to keep it from getting back out there you should begin using aliases, disinformation, and anonymous purchases—all through legal methods.

Some will say “I have nothing to hide” as if to say they have done nothing wrong. While that may be true in a sense, those people also surely appreciate a right to personal security and privacy. As illustrated in The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference, if you truly have nothing to hide would you send me the username and password to your email account? The point being, just because you “don’t have anything to hide” doesn’t mean you should needlessly have your personal information shared for public access and put yourself at risk.

When it comes to law enforcement, military, and government personnel it isn’t reasonable to expect private companies or government agencies to protect your identity and information. An illustration of this comes from former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt on that company’s stance on your privacy: “A person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

While there are many levels of privacy and security, it is recommended that you evaluate your situation along with the help of The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference to see what level of security suits you.  This includes a modification of your online habits (i.e., social media and online shopping) and locking down the security settings on your personal computer and smartphone. The most important basic smartphone changes are to increase your PIN to eight or more characters, modify your default privacy settings, and delete any vulnerable apps.

While they don’t offer true anonymity alone, these smartphone apps in conjunction with the important steps detailed in the “Privacy & Security” desk reference book will help to keep your personal information from being easily accessed by unwanted parties.

1. Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN