As it stands, it’s proposed that relevant assessment officers will visit citizens’ residences and private businesses to verify the information they submitted on their forms in order to calculate the annual rental value of their property.
This may require a complete walk-through of your property.
While many may not have an issue with such official persons coming onto their premises, they fear that criminals, white-collar ones, imposters, con artists etc, may pose as such official personnel to gain illegitimate access to their premises.
As such, they’ll be able to see the layout of their house, the items therein, access ways, where valuables may be stored etc.
For businesses,they may be able to see where safes and certain stock items like jewelry, legitimate arms and ammunition, financial documents etc, are stored.
Are financial institutions and other corporations okay with this development?
There’s fear expressed that many homes have single persons more so, single mothers and women. How safe will they be when total strangers enter? Will this now increase their probability of being victims of crimes such as robbery and sexual assault etc? What about homes with elderly persons living alone?
People also fear that the information gathered from illegal assessors may be given or sold to others as well as used by them for future criminal activities.
Further, official assessors may be even blackmailed or threatened into giving such information to criminals. Such valuable information may also be stolen.
We also have the fact that residents and business owners are being asked to submit their building plans and a range of other personal building documents by depositing them into boxes in government buildings. Were these not all submitted in the first place to get approval? How safe is this new deposit system? How easy is it for such documents to be stolen, illegal photocopied, photographed etc, during and after working hours? Are these being stored in tamper-proof ways? What guarantees are there for citizens and businesses?
We must recognise that there’ll be ill-thinking persons who’ll be looking for ways to capitalise on this latest project. They’re right now plotting how to use this legitimate financial system to commit crimes.
In order to gain public confidence in this data collection system, citizens must be assured that their information and safety are well-taken care of.
Having only a badge identifying such persons is not good enough. We all know how easy it is to make false ID cards. Such crooks have been counterfeiting money, license number plates, cheques, official documents, deeds etc, for so long now that it’s difficult at times to distinguish between fake and legitimate ones. Letters of authorisation can be faked as well. What else will be provided to the public?
From the citizens’ perspective, the following are some ways in which they can take some basic precautions:
• Take a photograph of all persons claiming to be assessors before they enter their premises. Share these pictures immediately with family and friends. (This will obviously be a limitation to persons without such a device, but get a friend or relative to be with you)
• Those with home or business security systems will have a recording of this visit so ensure that it’s functioning well.
The following are some of the things that the government can do:
• Institute severe penalties for breaches by official assessors and imposters. These should be made public.
• Assessors should have at least two forms of identification: an approved, uniquely designed Assessor ID card with a photo and the national ID card.
• Assessors should also present an authorised letter on a uniquely designed letterhead and an appropriate watermark.
• All visits must be by appointment only and on an agreed date and time by both parties so that persons can have friends or relatives with them.
• If visits are done by geographical regions at a time, then appropriate law enforcement officials should conduct patrols in such areas.
Have a 24-hour hotline where residents can call to verify if Assessor X, who’s in front of his house, is the legitimate assessor assigned to that house or business on this date and time. This schedule must be known by the hotline personnel in advance. Assessor X must be able to give the house or business owner a secret code that can only be revealed when the visit is about to take place. If Imposter Assessor Y knows this code then it must be an inside con job.
Key to this data verification project is to assure the public that the information provided to the assessor and government remain safe and don’t get into the wrong hands as there’s an increased likelihood that potential criminals will be searching to maximise on this new opportunity to commit a crime.
n The CISPS is a registered institution with the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT). Tel: 223-6999, 299-8635, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.caribbeansecurityinstitute.com