The Risks With Using Paper Rental Applications

I recently received a call from a condo association manager that was referred to me. She was concerned about their paper rental applications. They have been using paper applications for over 40 years and had them all stored in their offices. Legal names, dates of birth and social security numbers were written in each of them.

The manager finally realized the risks associated with having thousands of  documents containing sensitive personal information on the premises. The office was also running out of space to store them which made the matter even worse.

The need for personal data

Detailed personal information is crucial to be able to make a qualified decision. Here is a link to a post that does a good job of explaining why this data is important when assessing rental applicants.

Identity theft risks with paper applications

Identity theft is the fasted growing white-collar crime in America according to the FBI.

Real estate agents, property managers and landlords that use paper rental applications are increasing the risk of identity theft.

There are 2 types applications that pose these risks-

1) An actual paper application that is handed out at the location or available on line and then downloaded to be completed. The completed application is then hand-delivered, emailed or even faxed back to the office.

2) An online fillable pdf.

The security problems stem from the fact they are printed out to be viewed and distributed.

A paper application contains the applicant’s name, date of birth, current address and social security number. Credit card information can also be found on applications in many instances.

This information provides an identity thief with everything that is needed assume an identity and fraudulently use the victims credit accounts.

Paper applications are easy to be viewed by unauthorized individuals. I have seen them laying out in the open at many offices.  Rental offices by their nature normally have people regularly coming in. There are also cleaning and maintenance people that could access them, especially when the offices are closed and no one else is around.

On-line pdf rental applications present an additional security problem  when there are multiple applicants. Many times the co-applicants are required to complete the same application as the primary applicant on the same form. The primary applicant will complete their then the co-applicant will continue with the same application. This allows the co-applicant to see all of the primary applicant’s personal information. This is a cause for concern when the applicants don’t know each other.

The benefits of secure online rental application

Issues associated personal data security dangers can be effectively addressed by using  a secure on-line application program.

Important features include –

–  Individual applications (that can then be combined for review) for each applicant.

–  The ability to capture an SSN for screening purposes, but not make it visible to anyone after it is entered.

–  Access by permission only. If more than one person needs to review the application, each needs to have their own log in credentials.

Paper applications are obsolete and provide a tempting target for identity thieves.  Many of the personal data security dangers with paper rental applications can be greatly reduced by using a secure on-line rental application and background screening service.