Identity Theft and Home Equity

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As if we don’t have enough to worry about, now we have to worry about people digging through our garbage.  The Identity Theft Assistance Center has a new report identifying people with large amounts of home equity are becoming increasing targets.  Home equity lines of credit is very appealing to these criminals because of the reserves.  Home owners need to be diligent and check their accounts on a regular basis to ensure no tampering has occurred.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released their annual mortgage fraud report in April.  In the report, home equity mortgage credit fraud is cited as an “emerging scheme” in the battled real estate and mortgage markets.  Identity Theft criminals have long targeted people with poor credit.  This practice came about with the emergence of the “sub-prime” market.  If you are not familiar with the sub-prime market, it was basically a way for people who could not afford loans obtain loans.  It required very little identification which made it a prime target of identity thieves. 

Now that the lenders have seen the errors in their ways and tightened up their requirements, Identity theft thieves are looking for new avenues.  These new avenues require going after people with good credit.  Home equity loans are attractive because they are as easy to open up as a credit card account.  All they need is a little bit of financial information.  And where do they find it?  You got it…..right there in your garbage can.

How this usually goes down……. thieves will pose as home owners online and request home equity accounts.  After the account is opened,  they will send a fax to the bank requesting a wire transfer.  The bank unknowingly calls the crooks to verify the transfer.  And in a blink of an eye the money is out of the account.

We are seeing a lot more requests from home owners requesting to be set-up on a quarterly schedule.  We provide free security containers where you can drop your junk mail and all your other paper work to be picked up for on-site paper shredding.  This service starts as low as fifty dollars per visit.  People often overlook paper shredding and take an attitude of “it won’t happen to me”.  Mobile document shredding takes about ten minutes to set up and we work to your schedule.  Give us a call and see why we are the fastest growing paper shredding company in Houston.

Shredding – so much easier

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I received a phone call from a guy the other night at around 8 in the evening.  Usually I don’t take sales calls that late but wasn’t doing anything important at the time so I picked up.  The individual asked quite a few questions and wanted us to come out first thing in the morning.  Seemed a little odd to me, but I said that I could squeeze him in the schedule if he was willing to be ready at 7:30.

We arrived at 7:30, and met with the customer.  He had his boxes in his garage ready to go.  As we started to get things going I see the individual clicking photo’s every two seconds, kinda strange, but we sometimes have clients that need to log documents that have been destroyed.  It took us about fifteen minutes, cost less then a $150.00 dollars.

So……..

I’m playing golf this past Sunday with a friend of mine.  We were paired up with two other guys to make a foursome.  During the course of the round, we were discussing each other’s professions.  I brought up On-Site Shred and the one gentleman says “You need to contact that guy that was on the news the other night”  I hadn’t seen the broadcast, so I asked if he knew the name.  Right away he knew the name which I thought was interesting (people pay serious attention when their information has been mishandled).  I told him that’s really odd, because I received a phone call from a guy with the same name the other night at a late hour and he needed shredding done first thing in the morning.  We both agreed it had to be the same guy.

When I came back home I did a little research, and sure enough it was the same guy.  The moral of the story – take a little bit of time and a little bit of money to protect yourself and your clients by hiring a professional paper shredding company.  It’s a heck of a lot easier than dealing with a camera in your face and having to explain yourself to the Texas Attorney General.

Paper Shredding and the Texas AG

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If businesses haven’t got the word, they need to pay attention.  The Texas AG is very serious about protecting Texans from Identity theft.  If you don’t have an active paper shredding policy, you are at risk….in many ways.   Last week the Texas Attorney General’s Office issued new charges and announced a settlement agreement with EZCORP.

Austin based EZCORP, a payday and pawn lending company, has reached a settlement with the Texas Attorney’s General office in which it will pay the state a sum of $600,000.00.  Now you may ask yourself, what would warrant a $600,000.00 settlement?  Failure to do proper paper shredding!  That’s right, EZCORP had improperly discarded customer records in the back dumpster.  Had this been in Houston, they could have called a Houston shredding company, it would have taken about a half hour and cost them less than a hundred dollars.

Paper Shredding can Prevent Corporate Espionage and Business Identity Theft

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Corporate espionage is more widespread than you might think and it doesn’t just effect the big companies but small companies and workers. In 2005, 220 shipments of counterfeit materials were seized by border control agents. This is the equivalent to 4.8 million dollars of merchandise sold retail and a loss of more than 200 million dollars to US businesses. Internationally, it translates approximately to the monetary equivalent of 750,000 jobs[1] annually.

 

There are many ways in which company secrets can be stolen. High-tech listening and photo devices can be used from 2000 feet away. Computers can be hacked into and email intercepted and corporate spies often try and infiltrate the company from within. According to an article in Businessweek (Joseph Pisani,October 2, 2006), corporations spend $95 billion on corporate security but the bulk of funding is focused on surveillance. Companies often overlook simple cost effective measures such as paper shredding.

Paper shredders are inexpensive security measures and prevent people from rummaging through the trash for valuable secrets and communications. The trash is the easiest place to access undetected for a stranger to the company it is also the least secured place, often not even having a surveillance camera. As a matter of fact, this method has long been successfully used by non-profits and investigative journalists. Trash is free game and it is surprising what companies throw away. Bev Harris, organizer of the nonprofit Black Box Voting, regularly used “dumpster diving” to find countless voting records that the government didn’t want in the public view. Investigative reporters have found billing mistakes, damning memos, and financial records to bring down companies.

 

In addition, employee records can be found by identity thieves and the information used to open accounts. This is particularly easy to do once the employer is known. Not only will this bring financial hardships to the employee but lawsuits can become costly. According to Reuters  News Wire (January 10, 2008) Sears, Roebuck, and Co. is but the latest in a stream of lawsuits being filed over Identity Theft. There is a $5 million class action lawsuit over there management of information and that amount is likely to grow as the suit builds.

Small business identity theft is also an increasing problem. According to an article in Businessweek (July 23, 2007), “Some studies say there were as many as 8.9 million individual victims of business identity theft nationwide last year, and estimated annual losses approach $50 billion”. Imagine all of your business credit accounts maxed out after all the work you have put in to building your businesses’ good name. Now realize that a simple paper shredder and shredding policy can be an important step in stopping this from happening. Whether you use a  Houston shredding company or buy your own shredder, Be Smart! Don’t throw your reputation out with the trash without protection.


[1]    Sarkar, Dibya, “Customs agents are seizing record amounts of pirated IT hardware.”

      Federal Computer Week. May 8, 2006

Paper Shredding to continue….

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The Woodlands, TX – The Farmer’s Market is on hiatus until the Fall, but the paper shredding will continue.  Due to the overwhelming requests from the community, On-Site Shred will have their truck at Grogan’s Mill Shopping Center this Saturday from 9 am until Noon.  On-Site Shred is a Woodland’s based company and provides secure document destruction on-site.  Your confidential information will be destroyed while you watch via video monitor.  Residents and businesses are asked to remove any plastic or three-ring binders.  Their shredder is able to shred right through paper clips, binder clips, and fasteners, so there is no need to remove those items.   There is no limit to the amount of boxes people or companies can bring.  Regular size file boxes are destroyed for $7.00 per box, and large file boxes are destroyed for $10.00 per box.  After this Saturday, their truck might be moving to different Villages, so they ask that you please call their office at 281-292-2280 for information on their location or visit their website at http://www.shreddinghouston.net 

Advantages to outsourcing your paper shredding

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Why would I pay someone to do paper shredding when I can do it right here in-house?  I hear this question a lot.  And the answer is pretty simple.  Why?  Because it will save you money.

The Attorney General has made it pretty clear that he is serious about protecting Texans from Identity theft.  Businesses found in violation of the strict new identity theft laws will find themselves not only getting beat up in the press, but writing a substantial check to the state and preparing for civil lawsuits.  Using a professional paper shredding service that provides a certificate of destruction allows that company an audit trail and shows compliance with the new laws. 

Another reason is time.   When you are paying a person six figures you sure as heck don’t want that person spending their time at the shredding machine trying to figure out how to unjam it.  You can delegate the shredding duties to a low level employee, but do you really want that person to have access to the company’s most sensitive information?  I think not.  And what’s worse, as you can read in the press, a lot of times that employee decides it would be much easier to just dump them in the back dumpster.

Stay tuned for part II on the advantages to outsourcing your paper shredding.