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How Privacy Trusts Work


Computer hackers from around the world gathered to share tricks of the trade at Chaos Communication Camp in Finowfurt, Germany on August 10, 2007.
Computer hackers from around the world gathered to share tricks of the trade at Chaos Communication Camp in Finowfurt, Germany on August 10, 2007.
Sean Gallop/Getty Images

How many times have you released your credit report? All your landlords have received a copy. Your­ employer got a copy during the background check for your first professional job. Now you're buying your first home, but what you don't know is who else gets much of what you may think is private information.

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Financial institutions collect personal information about their clients, and they can share that information with retailers, telemarketers, airlines and non-profit organizati­ons [source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation]. When you own property, your lack of financial privacy is compounded. All of the following ends up on the public record:

  • The equity you have in your home
  • The amount left on your mortgage
  • The appraised value of your home
  • The floor plan of your home
  • The amount of your property taxes and whether you paid them

When this information is on the public record, it's searchable in county and state databases on the Internet. You may be surprised at how easy it is for people to learn where you spend, how much you spend, and how much your assets are worth.

Now, think about how that information could be misused. After you had to get a restraining order on your ex, do you really want him to be able to see your new floor plan? Do you have enough wealth -- or a profitable enough business -- that you might be a target for a con artist? If you’re contemplating a leap into public life -- whether you’re running for office or auditioning for reality TV -- maybe there are just certain things you’d rather keep private.

If your heart's racing, don’t worry -- it’s a healthy paranoia and you can do something about it. Learn how to protect your assets by establishing a privacy trust.