The 14.4M Americans suffering from identity theft usually discover it happened when they apply for credit, including first-time buyers trying to secure a mortgage.
CHICAGO – About 14.4 million adults are victims of identity theft each year – but many may not even realize it until they try to qualify for a loan. A lender’s financial review may be tripped up if their identity has been taken, and their homebuying dreams could quickly be dashed.
“Identity theft is on the rise, and if you don’t pay attention, you could have a harsh awakening when applying for a mortgage to purchase a home,” cybersecurity expert Sandra Estok, author of the “Happily Ever Cyber!” book series, told realtor.com.
Identity theft takes many forms. In one case, some criminals simply steal a Social Security number and open credit cards or loans in the person’s name. That can ruin a credit score needed to qualify for a mortgage.
Before applying for a loan, homebuyers should do advance work to ensure their finances are up to par and haven’t been hacked, experts say.
“One proactive step to take before putting in an offer, or even before you consider looking at homes, is to review your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or directly with all three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion,” Estok says. “Each of these companies maintains a separate report that can give you clues if something doesn’t add up.”
Check bank statements too. Credit card companies offer enrollment in fraud detection programs as well. Often, loan borrowers have a 60-day window to report any suspicious activity in an account. After that, they may be on the hook for any amounts stolen from their accounts.
Estok also suggests visiting haveibeenpwned.com to check whether your email address or phone number has been part of a data breach. If so, change passwords immediately.
Source: “Could Identity Theft Keep You From Buying a House?” realtor.com® (Aug. 9, 2021)
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