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Man Felt 'Violated' After Landlord Text on Stimulus Check

Ore. man says property manager illegally accessed payment status via IRS site, asked for rent
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2020 8:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – On April 15, Austin Goodrich received his stimulus check from the government. That same day, he got some odd texts from his property manager, per Business Insider. In messages documented by Joshua Browder, CEO of the DoNotPay legal chatbot, Goodrich's landlord asked him, "You got your stimulus, just asking are you going to pay rent or part of rent with any." When Goodrich, who recently lost his security guard job due to the coronavirus pandemic, inquired how the landlord knew he got his check, the landlord admitted he'd accessed the IRS' "Get My Payment" site, using Goodrich's Social Security number, to look into the status of Goodrich's check, as well as the status of other tenants' checks. "After the truth came out, I felt overwhelmingly violated and vulnerable," Goodrich tells Vice News. "My personal information and tenant’s privacy rights were violated."

"Completely outlandish," tweeted a civil liberties group Goodrich belongs to. He has since put out a statement with what he thinks the government should do to address the "gaping holes" in the IRS site's security, including giving users IP addresses and locations of others who try to access their info. He tells the Daily Dot he's given his landlord until April 22 to give him back his security deposit and waive all past-due rent, as well as upcoming payments for the duration of the lease, or he'll file a lawsuit. In the meantime, Browder notes that the Justice Department "has reached out, has all the details and is investigating." As for others who know their own landlords have spied on their stimulus check status? In Forbes, Shahar Ziv—who says using someone else's personal information to access the IRS site isn't "authorized"—suggests contacting a lawyer, and maybe even filing a police report. (Read more economic stimulus package stories.)

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