Turning from a renter to a home owner is such an exciting moment in life. However, it could also be stressful at the same time. Aside from looking for the right neighborhood for your new home, your finances should be in near perfect condition for you to be able to take out a home loan. What doesn’t often cross the mind of home buyers, though is there’s a large risk of becoming an identity theft victim.
In most cases, the victim of identity theft doesn’t have any idea about it until the originator of the mortgage pulls his or her credit score to prepare for a home loan noted Paul Wylie, who was the former owner and founder of the Metrocities Mortgage. He said that he had seen potential borrowers get turned away from buying their dream homes or receiving a significantly higher interest rate. This interest rate increase happens because the borrowers usually aren’t able to take fast enough action to remedy damage cause by identity theft. Thus, they failed to secure a reasonable home loan, and that’s if they were able to qualify for one at all. This is reason is enough for you to make sure that you’re not and won’t be an identity theft victim before you even start looking for a new home.
Before you even purchase your home, you should first check out your credit report and review it closely. Look for suspicious items that might indicate someone is using your identity without your consent. In particular, look for unauthorized new credit requests. You should also spend your money wisely by investing on services to protect your identity which will monitor your personal information while you search for your new home.
Once you are sure that you’re eligible to take out a home loan, then the next step would be to protect your identity while going through the buying process. Here are the few tips regarding the matter:
- Ensure that the mortgage and real estate professionals you are transacting with make use of a secure system while communicating all of your sensitive information. In case you still doubt their network security or want to take caution, it would be best to hand over the documents personally.
- Ask your lenders about how they protect information given to them and what happens to it once the process of acquiring the loan is done.
- Make use of referrals in contacting realtors and mortgage professionals. Check if they have up-to-date licenses. Even then, you should trust your instincts on this one.
- Continue using the services mentioned before to ensure you know what’s happening to your data. Credit monitoring is also capable of alerting you with suspicious activity on your credit. That way, you would be able to take action to it fast.
- Evaluate if the offers seems to be too good to be true. It would be best to ensure that the offers are legitimate and you should never provide them with a down payment if you have not met him or her in person or without even seeing the home they are offering you.
- Be wary of loan providers and make sure that they are not con artists. Meet them personally, do your own research about the company they are working for and check out if they have a good reputation. As much as possible, do not apply for loans online if you are unsure about the validity of the website.
Purchasing a home is not an easy thing to do. However, the complicated process isn’t an excuse to stop doing everything you can to protect your identity.
Most of us feel comfortable in using ATMs and that is why some us don’t even realize our financial information is rather vulnerable. Not all thieves are present online and not all of them involve hacking or data mining over the internet. In fact, there are thieves who target individuals at ATMs.
We can’t deny the fact that ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) have been a great blessing to us. They are extremely convenient considering, whenever you are in need of money, you can find one pretty much everywhere. Moreover, these ATMs are available 24/7 and are really easy to use. Although ATMs may have seemed impossible decades ago, life today seems like it would be particularly difficult without them.
Even though we might consider them as a blessing, certain issues still can’t be avoided just like other things have. When you are in need money and have decided to either drive to the nearest ATM or just walk to the one across the street, it is important to take precautionary measures to ensure that you are not making yourself vulnerable to identity theft.
Here are a few tips for you to keep in mind:
Beware of skimming
Skimming is one of the most common methods that thieves use in order to collect data from an ATM. In this one, the thief attaches a certain device on the ATM. This device then allows thieves to acquire certain data like PINs, credit card numbers and cardholder’s name. Fairfax County Police’s Detective Tom Polhemus located in Virginia said that the devices that these criminals use are subtle and small. Therefore, it would be difficult to notice them. Moreover, the device is capable of functioning for 2-4 hours, which could potentially mean dozens or hundreds of cards’ details depending on how busy the area might be.
After they are done skimming a few cards, the thieves remove the device and head off to their next target ATM. These devices are usually attached using a tape or glue. Tom said that ATM users should beware of using machines with card receivers that are bulky, poorly attached to the machine or out of place. Machines with scratches, cracks and tapes should be avoided at all cost.
Check if there are cameras installed
With the continuously evolving technology, companies have been releasing smaller cameras each time. The thieves makes use of this technology by installing them near the ATM. Obviously, they are much smaller than the security cameras usually attached to an ATM. Even though it might be hard to discover the camera, you could check all sides of the ATM to check whether it has small holes where mini cameras might be installed. If you feel like something is unusual or out of place with the ATM, then it would be best to locate and use a different one and inform the bank (if it’s open) of the problem.
Check the ATM’s keypad
There are thieves that make use of keypads if skimming or placing a camera did not work out well for their criminal activity. These keypads are placed over the actual keypad of the ATM and these are really hard to detect. However, just like the tips mentioned for the cameras, look for another machine if there is something odd with the current machine you are planning to use.
Aside from the tips mentioned above, it would be better and safer to choose an ATM near a bank instead of one located on a random street corner. Moreover, always remember to cover with your hand the numbers that you press for your PIN. Always ask for receipts and keep them until you have compared it with your bank statement. No matter what precautionary measures you you choose to go with at the ATM, it’s be a good idea to use credit monitoring services as well.
Real World Identity Theft Protection Methods
Identity theft happens so frequently that FBI considered it as the fastest growing crime issue in America. Thieves fraudulently use and steal the addresses, names, SSNs, credit card numbers, bank account information, and some personal information of millions of individuals every year. To avoid identity theft, learning how those thieves get your personal information is the very first step you should take to protect yourself.
When it comes to corporate world, thieves make headlines by breaking into huge consumer databases and get numerous names in the form of data breaches. It may also occur from the inside as there are insiders who might use an access of an employer to credit reporting information to obtain personal data or acquire information directly from the trash or files of the employer. Employees can be also bribed or conned by outsiders to steal information.
In terms of personal level, identity theft is a bit less publicized once it occurs to an individual, yet the number of ways that identity theft may occur on this level is distressing. The simplest way involves stealing your wallet or digging your trash. Identity theft may also be as easy and simple as peering over anyone’s shoulder as they utilize an ATM machine. Other sophisticated methods include targeting information of the deceased by using obituaries, diverting or stealing your mail, as well as getting bank account or credit card information through skimming, which is a high-tech theft who uses a particular electronic device when stealing information from your bank account or credit card.
Generally, skimming happens once your credit card is used when making a purchase and the one who processes your card may use a skimmer to get personalized access information. Skimmers are also found on ATMs. Aside from skimming, phishing is also one of the widely publicized methods of personal ID theft. Phishers steal information by creating a website that appears to be very similar to a reliable enterprise’s site and send emails out to lure anyone to enter their contact information. Then, thieves will use the information in any way they want.
What Happens Once Your Identity Was Stolen?
When identity thieves steal your personal information, they become you through assuming your financial identity. Criminals who are less sophisticated consider spending spree using your credit cards and sometimes open new credit cards in your name, establishing cell phone accounts, and writing checks.
Thieves who are experienced and more sophisticated will do more than spending your money by using your name or full identity to do anything they need or want. They will get personal identification including a driver’s license and utilize it when taking out car loans, opening bank accounts or filing for bankruptcy to avoid eviction from an apartment or a house. They can also use your personal date to make payments. So, what’s the best defense you can do to avoid it?
Tip: Identity theft protection services monitor thousands of data points to spot any possible signs of identity theft or fraud. Consider signing up for a plan and letting them keep tabs on your credit. It will save you time and give you peace of mind. Learn more here.
Avoiding Identity Theft
Though high-profile hackings of corporate databases may suggest that no one is safe from identity theft, there are several precautions that can reduce the odds of being victimized. One of these is to protect your SSN or Social Security Number, which is a critical part of personal information. Never print it on any kind of personal identification. Don’t print it on your checks and only use it when needed. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet and avoid utilizing your SSN as your personal identifier if possible. Even if medical clinics, colleges, employers, and some entities often require your SSN, better think twice before you give it. You never know who will access to your information.
Another way of protecting yourself from identity theft is by protecting your mail. You can do this by reducing the amount of unsolicited offers. When you are on a vacation, cancel mail delivery. If you don’t, your mails can be a tempting target of thieves. Outgoing mails also need protection. When writing a mail and a check to your credit card company, never include information that’s complete enough for someone to utilize. You may only write your account number’s last 4 digits and your credit card company will be the one to identify you.
The Bottom Line
Being an identity theft victim can be devastating not only because your money will be stolen, but also your name can be used in crimes. Identity thieves are skilled when searching for targets. Because of this, it is always wise to be knowledgeable and more alert when protecting yourself.