Now you can know what Big Brother knows about you and get access to the same dirt everyone from your boss, landlord, insurance agent, to your favorite casino has on you. Here is a comprehenisve list of websites and phone numbers for most of the “specialty” consumer reports, like your employment, rental, and check writing history. Be sure to check them out and correct any errors, before a crisis hits.
The good news: the cost of living is decreasing, or at least isn’t increasing. The bad news: Colorado is the first state to actually decrease its minimum wage, from $7.28 to $7.24, and Social Security recipients will not be receiving their routine cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA for 2010.
If you get a call from a debt collector for a loan you never took out, and your Social Security number starts with a zero, try this excuse: “[My SSN] ended up linked to a Micronesian man who defaulted on a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.”
If you plan on retiring after 2037, you’d better get really serious about saving now. It might not hurt to also take a vow of poverty; that way you’ll feel like it’s your decision to live off of cardboard and dumpster fruit in your sixties.
The Dallas Independent School District has been making up fake Social Security Numbers for foreign hires for years, even after being told in 2004 by the state’s education board to stop because it’s illegal. The numbers were meant to “expedite” the hiring process and get the employees on payroll, but they found their way onto Department of Homeland Security and IRS forms (which are kept in-district but shared with feds upon request), were used for criminal background checks, and in at least 26 cases were numbers in use by real people.
As several readers discussed in yesterday’s post, utility, phone, and cable companies usually require your Social Security number in order to perform a credit check before activating service. You don’t have to provide it, but they don’t have to extend their services to you either. Here’s one reader’s explanation of how he was able to turn on water, electricity, gas, and an AT&T land line without turning over his SSN.
The Center For Responsible Lending has put together a report that examines the disastrous effect of overdraft fees on Americans who depend on Social Security for all or part of their income. Despite the fact that they’ve had checking accounts all their lives (and presumably know what they’re doing), each year older Americans pay 4.5 billion dollars in overdraft fees– and on average they actually pay more in fees than they receive in credit when the overdraft is triggered by a debit card transaction.
Two whistleblower lawsuits have been filed recently against insurers, faulting them for requiring unnecessary and repeated disability applications with Social Security before they’ll pay out any benefits. One person says her disability insurer, the Unum Group—which was only paying her $50 a month for a temporary injury she was almost certain to recover from—called her 10 times to ask her about her Social Security disability application. The woman told the New York Times “she did not need or want money from Social Security, and did not think she was entitled to it. Her doctors had told her she would recover, and Social Security is limited to people whose disabilities are total and permanent.”
A few days ago we linked to a Baltimore Sun article that investigated the recent accidental release of private patient data online by The Dental Network. Now the reporter who broke the story, Liz F. Kay, has contacted us with news that “this was the largest of nearly 40 breaches affecting Maryland residents” since a disclosure law went into effect in January:
Thirty-nine businesses or groups have reported losses of sensitive information involving about 87,500 Maryland residents in the three months since a state law took effect requiring that people be informed of such incidents, records show.
Last month, The Dental Network—a dental HMO owned by CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield—discovered it had accidentally revealed personal data and Social Security numbers online for about 75,000 of its customers. It told the members about the screw-up three weeks later. “The company says that to its knowledge, no one has misused the information. But it says ‘the risk … should be taken seriously,'” and it’s offering affected members one year of credit monitoring. After that, as you know, the thread of identity theft plummets. Wait, what?
David C. Richardson, the owner of Rhode Island Refrigeration in Providence, Rhode Island, overheard two customers speaking Spanish to each other, so he asked them to produce proof of citizenship. According to them, he then threatened to call Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and make a citizen’s arrest, although Richardson denies he picked up the phone, but not that he made the threats. In fact, he says he’s done this “fifteen or twenty times” in the past and refuses to do business with those who won’t show their Social Security cards.
This writer is quickly growing convinced that payday lenders are the modern version of indentured servitude, trapping consumers in cycles of debt that simply cannot be broken in their lifetimes.
A woman sued Wachovia last year because it allowed a telemarketing scam company to process stolen payments through its banks, despite complaints from customers and warnings from other banks and federal authorities. Wachovia said it had no idea what was going on, but now documents have been revealed that prove people high up in the company not only knew, but that “the bank, in fact, solicited business from companies it knew had been accused of telemarketing crimes.” Why? How about millions of dollars of extra revenue from steep fees whenever a fraud-related chargeback went through? The lawyers for the woman are now seeking class-action status for the lawsuit.
Nathalie Martin’s elderly cousin had her social security check garnished straight from her bank account by a collections agency. Apparently, most banks skip over the section of federal law that protects social security and other public benefits from creditors. Good thing Nathalie is a bankruptcy scholar and knows how to fight the sleazy debt collectors.