“Too often a victim does not learn of the identity theft until a mortgage originator pulls his credit score in preparation for a home loan,” said Paul Wylie, the founder and former owner of Metrocities Mortgage. “I have watched ideal borrowers walk away from their dream homes or pay significantly higher interest rates because they cannot repair the damage of identity theft fast enough to secure a home loan.”
For this reason you must make sure that you are not already the victim of identity theft before even looking for a new home:
- Request and review your credit report before making your home purchase. Look for signs, such as unauthorized requests for new credit, that would suggest someone is using your identity.
- Invest in identity protection services that can monitor your personal information while you’re looking for a home.
Once you have taken these steps, and ensured that you are eligible to take out loans to purchase a home, you can move on to the next part of the process: protecting your identity during the home-buying process. Here are a few tips to follow:
- Ensure that real estate and mortgage professionals use secure systems to communicate sensitive information. If you have any concerns about their network safety, err on the side of caution and drop documents off in person.
- Ask lenders how they protect personal information and what happens to your information once you have completed the loan process. Will documents be stored in a secure place or shredded and thrown out?
- Use referrals to contact mortgage professionals and realtors, and check with regulatory agencies to make sure that all professionals carry current licenses. This is also a good time to trust your instincts. If something about the person you are working with doesn’t sit right with you, move on.
- Continue using your identity theft protection and credit monitoring services, to ensure that you are getting all the behind-the-scenes information regarding your data. Credit monitoring can alert you when certain activity occurs on your credit files that may indicate fraud, allowing you to act quickly to refute any fraudulent activity.
- Be wary of offers that are too good to be true, because they usually are. If you’re getting an unheard-of deal, make sure to do your due diligence to ensure it is legitimate. Never wire someone a down payment without meeting them in person or seeing the home.
- Loan providers can also be a source of fraud, so make sure that you’re not working with a con artist. Meet lenders face-to-face and check the reputation of their company by searching for the business name online. Avoid applying for loans online unless you are absolutely certain that the website is valid.
Purchasing a home is a big step. Make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your identity protect your identity throughout the process.