All I Want For Christmas is Good Credit

I traded in my identity for Mariah Carey’s 1994 Christmas album.

After avoiding Target’s gravitational pull for a solid eight months, I made the fateful decision to step inside the retail vortex around mid-December. I just had to get my hands on “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in CD format. 

Unfortunately, someone else had to get their hands on my credit card information.

In the grand scheme of things, it could have been worse. I mean, if you’re going to ruin your credit, you may as well do it in the name of the greatest holiday song ever written. At least I wasn’t buying toilet paper.

Still, Mariah’s angelic pipes can only provide so much solace to myself and the 40 million other people who are now fearful their identity could be stolen.

Viewed through the lens of rental housing operations, Target Corporation’s recent failure to adequately protect sensitive consumer information underscores the fact that although a necessity, the collection of residents’ personal data is now an even greater liability.

In the March issue of units Magazine, Frank Mauck explores the topic of personal data protection by apartment owners in light of the retail giant’s security breach.

Even the seemingly innocent task of making a photocopy of a prospective resident’s driver’s license can put data at risk, potentially leaving apartment owners and management companies liable, facing costly legal bills and settlements. A $4 CD in the bargain bin is all well and good, but learn from my Target experience—people don’t take kindly to this sort of thing.

The multifamily housing industry must direct more attention at personal data protection, given the recent and continual onslaught of computer hackers looking to steal personal information, whether through credit card transactions or from companies’ information technology systems.

While technology is creating new and better safeguards against such crimes, hackers have shown they often are able to stay one step ahead. These are most likely the guys in high school who had ridiculously sweaty palms and were always turned down at the homecoming dances, so we really have ourselves to blame for not bringing them into the fold during those pivotal adolescent years. Payback’s a you-know-what.

In response to these scorned hackers, apartment companies must familiarize themselves with the state-specific responsibilities they carry for preservation of this data, based on their communities’ locations. They must have plans and protocols in place to help identify and deal with breaches that onsite and corporate staff members know, understand and execute.

These efforts are in the spirit of both protecting their residents, the companies’ reputations and against lawsuits, says Brian Finch, Partner at Washington, D.C.-based Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a nationally recognized leader in dozens of practice areas including addressing and mitigating the complex threats associated with privacy, data breach and computer technology risks.

Consider the volume of highly sensitive personal information swirling around at the community level: Background checks, credit reports, income statements, social security numbers—it’s a data bonanza that needs to be protected from any and all “black hats” looking to take part in the field day. 

If only those of us with impeccable music taste were spared. 

For more, check out “Lose the Bullseye” in the March issue of units Magazine, which mails March 11.

Lauren Boston is NAA’s Staff Writer and Manager of Public Relations. Unsurprisingly, she writes a lot—most often for units Magazine and as a weekly blogger for APTly Spoken. She enjoys making people laugh, sharing embarrassing childhood stories and being the (self-proclaimed) Voice of the Apartment Industry. She welcomes feedback, unless it’s negative (in which case, please keep it to yourself).