Monday, January 15, 2007
Help Me Howard: Bank Lost Info
If you have a social security number and date of birth, odds are you have had to give it to a company to borrow money or buy something. Now what would you do if they lost it, or it was stolen from them, and someone ruined your credit. Who is responsible if your bank lets you down? Here is the answer from Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you own a home, odds are you have a mortgage, and with your mortgage comes occasional letters from your lender.
Chester Burks: "At first I was upset."
The first paragraph of the letter from Chester's bank had bad news -- they had lost a computer tape.
Chester Burks: "The tape contained personal information for some of our home loan customers including your name, address and social security number."
And since Chester works in the computer industry he knows exactly what an identity thief can do with all your confidential information.
Chester Burks: "So, they can open up credit cards. Lines of credit. Ruin my credit."
To prevent that, the bank told Chester they would monitor one of the credit bureaus for a year. But Chester says what about the other credit bureaus.
Chester Burks: "That's one of three credit bureaus. So, I have to contact the other two."
And Chester says he will have to pay to monitor the credit bureaus for years and years in case thieves come after him.
Chester Burks: "They can open up accounts in my name tomorrow, a year from now, five years from now."
The bank did offer $10,000 in identity theft insurance, but, again, Chester argues who covers the rest, if a thief hits him?
Chester Burks: "Where is the accountability for them? Where is the responsibility?"
Chester says when he finished the letter he realized the bank really wasn't offering him much protection at all.
Chester Burks: "They have teams of lawyers that are watching over and covering everything to make sure they are protected. But who cares about us?"
Well there is one group -- those people from Channel 7's Help Me Howard. Speak for us, Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Offering to monitor one credit bureau when there are three seems insufficient. And, yes, most credit bureaus get the same information most of the time. But do you want to take a chance and possibly have someone ruin your credit and your name."
The bank says most identity theft takes place within a year of the information being lost or stolen. Also, a bank spokesman told me we have found daily monitoring of one credit bureau works well. But, if the customer is not satisfied, we will take further steps.
They agreed of offer Chester what they called a Tri Bureua Product, which monitors all three credit bureaus for a year.
And, as for covering Chester in case he ever is a victim, Howard says he is not a victim until he is victimized.
Howard Finkelstein: "The law won't do anything for Chester until he suffers financial losses. Then the bank could be responsible not only for the money that he loses but for fixing his credit rating."
Hopefully, Chester won't have to go that far. The monitoring of all three credit bureaus that we got should help him, but he is convinced -- as identity thieves progress -- that the law needs to catch up.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is something the legislature should look at in looking at laws to help protect consumers to find out what can we do."
Patrick Fraser: "And, in the meantime, the best person to protect your valuable information is you."
Go to the federal trade commission's website. Not only do they have ways to stop identity thieves, but they tell you how to get a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus for free.
It won't cost you anything, and it might save everything.
Identified a problem? Contact us, we'll help, and we don't want credit, you can bank on it.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Federal Trade Commission