When freedom is just a word…

Growing up in the 60’s, in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined what lay in store. Life was  so much  simpler back then. As a society we were much more innocent and trusting, at least that is how I remember it. My father made many deals in those days, on a simple hand-shake.    I grew up believing that a man is only as good as his word.

Unfortunately, life has become so complicated and it astounds me to the extent our privacy and our freedoms have disappeared. I wouldn’t have noticed, except we’ve been house hunting. Being prospective first-time homeowners, we have opted to rent, primarily because the home purchasing avenue is so time consuming and arduous. Contemplating the process is overwhelming.

Today, I contacted a couple of rental companies in the area. Wow! I was shocked to learn the amount of information they “require” of me to rent a home. Not only do they request my social security number (an unauthorized use), they want my bank account number, the balance, as well as the usual reference requirements. Frankly, this scared the hell out of me.

As someone who has been dealing with a complicated identity theft issue for the past 15-years, rendering me unable to obtain a bank account. Everyone knows what the problem is, they acknowledge that everything is properly documented, yet every person who has been contacted, regarding the identity theft have refused to act.

To add insult to injury these rental agents want to charge me ($30  for each occupant)  to trust them with my entire financial  future, putting my family at potential risk of further identity theft. These agents in most cases aren’t bonded, they are generally paid between $8.00 and $12.00, creating a built-in incentive for fraud, embezzlement and illegal financial gains.

I guess I’ll be living in my little shoebox house for a bit longer. I might trust a bank with my financial details, but bankers are held to a certain level of public trust, they are under higher scrutany than a housing rental company employee earning the same as a McDonald’s employee. Perhaps, if more people protected their privacy a little more and were not so willing to comply with every request for sensitive, personal data, companies wouldn’t be so quick to request our personal  financial records.

Too many businesses are requesting sensitive personal details that they have no legitimate need for. The information is on computers (some get stolen), in file boxes, in the backroom or a storage unit — boxes get lost and stolen all the time. Not every business shreds these files (which may or may not be required by law).

If you think identity theft can’t happen to you, think again. As IT consultants, we’ve seen an astounding amount of identity theft and much worse.

Experts recommend…

  • Keep your computer updated. Do regular updates.
  • If your computer gets infected with a virus, do not use it. Unplug your Internet connection and call a technician.
  • Take steps to guard your privacy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask “why” your sensitive information is required. There may be other means of complying with the request.

Learn more…

  • Mary Ann says:

    Annette, that must be frustrating. I have a friend going through similar issues with a bank trying to get her mortgage modified. What they do sometimes is outright fraud.

    OTOH, I do know that one reason landlords and rental agents require so much background is because landlord/tenant law is heavily slanted toward protecting the tenant. Once someone is in a home as a renter, it is very difficult to get them out for non-payment. When we rented out a home during a temporary move, it was our greatest fear that we wouldn’t be able to collect the rent. The eviction and recovery process can take 6 months to a year, all the while the landlord still must pay thousands on the mortgage. I’m not sure I would be willing to rent to anyone again, especially in this economy. It’s just too risky for the homeowner.

    BTW, I like your falling leaves. 🙂