Can You Protect Personal Information While Apartment Hunting?

My sister had a troubling experience yesterday that threatens to derail her apartment search and could have long term effects on her personal privacy. She found an apartment she liked- a condo the owner plans to rent out- and submitted an application in person last night. Three hours later, she got an email from her potential landlord telling her that he went from her appointment to the gym where he and several other patrons had their lockers broken into; his bag, including her rental application, was gone.

My sister is left feeling violated and a little afraid of what might be coming. After all, that rental application contains her name, date of birth, social security number, current and former addresses, current and former employers, name and contact numbers of references, banking information, income information, etc. All that personally identifiable information is now in the hands of thieves, and there is absolutely nothing she can do about it.

My sister is heading to the bank to stop payment on the application check, and to discuss with them what her next steps should be, but I wanted to share her story as a cautionary tale and to see if the Apartment Therapy community has any experience or advice to share. I know in the past, I've never thought twice about filling out rental applications and handing them over to potential landlords, but now I'm rather wary of the idea of giving all that information to a private individual rather than a representative of a larger management company.

Have you ever had a bad experience with lost rental application information? How do you protect your personal privacy while engaged in an apartment search?

Image: Alan Cleaver licensed for use under Creative Commons.

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