If they have a mind to, an unscrupulous person in possession of someone's personal information can cause a lot of damage. Their mischief can range from opening charge cards and other lines of credit, running up huge charges in the victim's name that go unpaid and wreak havoc on his or her credit rating, to emptying bank accounts. All a criminal needs is an individual’s name, address, social security number and bank account numbers.
Where might such information be gathered together in one neat package?
“Co-op applications are probably the most invasive request for documents and personal information that a person will have in their lifetime,” observes Stephen Elbaz, president of Esquire Management Corp., which manages co-ops and condominiums in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. “It’s really more invasive than a typical bank loan, which deals strictly in financial information.”
The co-op package is a smorgasbord of private information, including, in addition to Social Security and bank account numbers, copies of checks, the signature on which can be copied, and personal reference letters. And the shareholder approval process always includes a credit report, which provides a list of credit cards and where they have been used.
Identity theft and fraud is a particularly insidious crime, not just for the damage it does financially and psychologically, but because of the difficulty to tie perpetrators to the specific data breach event. Victims are commonly unaware of the misappropriation until long after the damage has been done.