HIGHTOWER: Stealing Your Financial Privacy

Al Newman of Olympia, Washington, was startled to come across evidence of a major crime: Bank robbery.But the robbers weren't stealing from the bank ... they were the bank. And the theft was not of money ... but of Al Newman's personal financial data. Al had received a solicitation in the mail from a Connecticut insurance company, and the mailing included a reference number that struck Al as familiar. Then it hit him -- it was the number of his bank account! His own bank had sold his most private financial information to another corporation without even notifying him, much less getting his permission.The crime here is that corporate trafficking in our personal data is not a crime! Indeed, it has become a big business for banks, which make millions of dollars by peddling your account numbers, your bank balance, your loan history, your address, your birthday, your social security number, your credit card numbers, and other sensitive information -- all sold to other firms. Most people are unaware that this back door business is being conducted by their bank, which most of us assume is the guardian of our financial privacy.Far from protecting us though, bank lobbyists and congress just teamed up to pass a new financial conglomeration bill that specifically legalizes this marketing of your personal records among banks, insurance companies and stock brokerages that merge. So your banker will have your health records and your insurance company will get your mortgage information -- plus your tax return that's filed with your mortgage. They'll share all this, like winos sharing a bottle of Ripple, without having to get your consent.This is Jim Hightower saying ... They should have to have our written permission to use any of our private information. To battle the bankers on financial privacy, contact US Public Interest Research Group at 202-546-9707.

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