October 13, 2009
How One Man Averted an Identity Theft Epidemic
How One Man Averted an Identity Theft Epidemic
A San Francisco landlord, saddled with sensitive documents, did the right thing
By JOE ROSATO JR.
In a small, empty office in San Francisco's Cow Hollow, landlord Billy Tookoian surveyed a fraudster's dream: 46 cardboard boxes of personal information.
The boxes were the detitrus of what was until last year a thriving business, Financial Title. Then the economy tanked, and the company folded up its locations all across California, including the one Tookoian rented to it.
"They basically abruptly closed shop," he said as he walked past the company's logo still affixed to a white wall. "Turned the lights off, closed the door and walked away."
The company walked away, but it left behind a few souvenirs of its time there.
The office desks and chairs were left at the ready for the morning workforce. Also left behind: the 46 boxes, containing personal information for about 2,000 clients.
A bankruptcy firm that handled the closure worked out a deal that allowed Tookoian to take control of his building without a lengthy court battle. But in exchange, he was left responsibility for all the personal files.
"We had 2,000 to 3,000 files," Tookoian said. "As a landlord and a condo owner, didn't feel comfortable just throwing them out in the recycling bin."
So while he figured out what to do with the files, they languished in a corner of his building.
Tookoian fingered through the boxes, bearing Social Security numbers, copies of checks, bank information, credit reports, even thumbprints.
"I guess the best way to describe what's in those files is an identity theft fraud starter kit," said Tookoian.
According to consumer advocates, 10 million people in the U.S. will fall victim to identity theft each year. Joe Ridout of Consumer Action says situations like Tookoian's have become more common as the economy takes a toll on businesses : "One of the hidden consequences of this economic mess we've been in over a year now is that a lot of businesses are failing and as they fail they leave behind a lot of information that could contain something very important about you and me."
Ridout says the Federal Trade Commission has implemented new laws requiring businesses to properly dispose of sensitive personal information. So far, an Illinois mortgage company was fined $50,000 for throwing personal records in a dumpster. But fines like that are rare.
"I think most of us underestimate how much of our personal information is just lying about in numerous businesses across the country," Ridout said.
In Tookoian's case, there is a happy ending for Financial Title's customers, who probably had little idea that a lifetime's supply of personal information was sitting in a cardboard box, guarded by a single deadbolt. Last week, a company that specializes in destroying sensitive documents hauled off all 46 boxes from Tookoian's business.
And left him with the bill.
Wild Thing's comment..........
Thank God this man did the right thing. This would have been a total nightmare for those in the files he had if he had done something else with it. Even if he didn't himself if he had decided to let bad people have it or something.
"Identity theft is the number one consumer crime in America, and still growing rapidly. Many employers are beginning to realize that identity theft protection can be a highly valuable addition to an employee benefits program. "Identity theft is the number one consumer crime in America, and still growing rapidly. Many employers are beginning to realize that identity theft protection can be a highly valuable addition to an employee benefits program".
How bad is identity theft these days? It is huge and it is now the number one crime in the US. Many people are concerned with Identity Theft and one recent Headline read; "Identity Theft; Have they Got You Yet?" Well when I read that, I thought to myself, actually they have. Indeed, Internet Identity Theft, hacking and phishing scams have now topped the amount estimated in illegal drug sales in the United States; Ouch!
Many companies ask us for personal data and we are assured we are safe in giving it to them, but each week we hear of a company losing data? Next, many of these companies are required to collect the information due to Know Your Customer Laws, generally enacted to prevent international terrorists move money or purchase items to use for evil purposes.
Then we have the government asking for data, most people worry about this; you know BIG BROTHER or the Movie 1984? Still with the interconnectedness of government computers and all the data from IT systems, which are to figure out your every purchase, move etc. some fear that their privacy is being violated and also fear that their data and personal information may end up in the hands of criminals.
So, what is the future of IT and are the fears cited by groups like the "Electronic Privacy Frontier" non-profit group warranted or can we allow this information for use to help us and not penalize us or be used against us in the future?
Will the new IT Systems streamline data to help people or should we worry about let's say big government or its potential misuse and either way is the data safe? So that is the question of the day. And my question to you is how do you feel about this? What safeguards should be in place? And do you trust the system or IT infrastructure with your data?
Lots of questions these days surrounding Identity Theft. I certainly hope this article is of interest and that is has propelled thought.
I have done two posts about a company I work with called Pre-Paid Legal. It gives you a Law Firm to call upon anytime you need a lawyer, legal advice, a letter written, for numerous reasons too many to mention here. It also has Identity Theft Shield that unlike others that offer protection for credit cards, this one covers ALL your forms of identity. Your SS#, credit cards, banking, medical, etc.
This article that Richard sent me is so timely because as I mentioned in my other posts there is something so special happening
I care about all of you and would love to be able to know you are protected too and to have a law firm all for you to use for needs you may not even know about today. It is something I love sharing about with others, something I am proud of be connected with and to help others see how awesome this can be.
The Pre-Paid Legal membership helps people. We see it every day. Here are two example's:
Our member ordered a nutritional supplement which was advertised on television. The member believed that he was getting the ten day free trial, but he was billed for a 60 day supply. The member tried to get a refund and was unable to do so. Our attorney wrote a letter and was able to get a refund of $87.00 for the member.
Another member wrote a check to a company. The check bounced. The company called and threatened our member, who paid the amount, plus returned check fees, via Western Union. The company ran the check through again, obtaining the money twice and causing overdraft fees at the member's bank. Our attorney wrote a letter and the member received the sum of $748.93.
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Please watch this video it explains so much to give you information about this.I suggest to watch it all the way through.
just enter my name
Many of you have enrolled and I am so happy for you. To feel a little safer can never hurt and it sure took a lot of my mind too. Especially since I am online so much. Also regarding the Blastoff, oh wow with Christmas coming and other holidays this is a real blessing to be able to get cash back on my shopping I have to do. Two weeks ago there were 300 vendors on the list where we can shop and now it is up to 450. They said vendors are climbing the walls to be a part of this service so you know there will be more and more stores you like to shop from, for your needs or wishes. I bought ink for my printers and some other things from Office Depot at my own Blastoff homepage and I am already going to be getting cash back for my purchase.
These organizations and vendors obviously understand what is going to happen.
Here is my email if you would like to know more about this.
....Thank you Richard for sending this to me.
Posted by Wild Thing at October 13, 2009 06:48 AM