Monday, May 16, 2005

It's not just the big three you need to know about

As this court has pointed out more than a few times, while Creditoris Squaliformes and the sleeping-watch-dog regulators routinely blab on and on about how YOU are responsible for knowing what's in YOUR credit report and getting it fixed, they know full well other information about you is being gathered and is floating around out there. And they also don't like to admit you aren't made aware it's being collected and sold, nor do you know if and when it's used or even how to correct it when the errors and even concocted misinformation about you is collected. It's a bit too simple - if they don't have to admit they have it, they don't have to admit they use it.

In fact, in today's climate of deliberately induced fear about terrorists, the regulators and businesses who want to do so-called "background checks," would rather not have anyone know these companies are playing fast-and-loose with information about you. Government and the Squaliformes are thrilled to be able to scratch each other's backs, er, make that dorsal fins, while individual privacy is invaded willy-nilly.

Another Squaliforme has been uncovered and joins the Hall of Shame this week:

Operating under the guise of "Merlin Information Systems," Mike and Jordonna Dores have been playing private detective and gathering and selling information about people from their offices in tiny Kalispell, Montana for over 10 years now.

Recently, US Postal Service inspectors made them aware that a customer of their's wasn't exactly on the up and up. Just as with the ChoicePoint snafu, the person who wanted the information and was willing to pay for it set up what appeared to be a legitimate account. He then obtained the information on nearly 9,000 unaware victims of this decade-long covert and blatant privacy abuse.

Gosh, and aw shucks, Mike. Like it hasn't happened before or won't happen again? Up that close to the Canadian border you figure you've been eyeball to eyeball with all your "customers?" Not likely.

According to a small article in the Missoula, Montana paper:

"We, of course, immediately apologized," [Jordonna] Dores said, and the company fired off a letter this week to those whose personal records were shared. The company also offered those affected a year's worth of credit monitoring at no cost, and bought a $50,000 identity theft insurance policy for each of the 8,998 people."

Wow, so those you think had their records shared get a year's worth of credit monitoring and some insurance coverage for identity theft purposes.

Gosh, and aw shucks, Jordonna. That might be useful if the crook was using the information for that purpose. Highly unlikely, and the story isn't over yet because the crook hasn't been apprehended so we have no idea what he was doing with it or who he passed it on to.

More likely, the crook is yet another information reseller wannabe who can make money by collecting and selling supposedly private information to companies wanting to have plausible-deniability in obtaining and using such crap in "not hiring" decisions, or Squaliformes and attorneys who don't want to have to live with even the miniscule protections we're supposed to have.

And how many more "Merlin Information Systems" snoops are out there? We'll never know. Anyone with (or even without) a detective's license who can hire some techies and buy information for resale can do this and you'll never know.

So, for those folks on that side of the Pecos, the next time you apply for a job or insurance coverage, you might want to reconsider signing that waiver clause that says they can obtain information about you from anybody they want.

And on this side, any company that uses these Squaliforme enablers better not show up in this Court.

The Honorable Judge Roy Bean.

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