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Protecting Your Identity While Buying a Home

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Buying a home can expose you to a criminal trying to steal your personal information.

Identity theft is among the most common crimes today, affecting millions yearly. This theft involves stealing personal information, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank account information, intending to be used for fraud. The impact of identity theft can be devastating, leaving victims with a mountain of debt and a damaged credit score.

Have you ever thought about the potential consequences of having your identity stolen? It’s a scary thought, but unfortunately, it’s a genuine risk in today’s world. Every time you make a major purchase, such as a home or a car, you expose yourself to the risk of stealing your information.

Identity theft can happen in various ways, such as through data breaches, phishing scams, or even by stealing mail or dumpster diving. Once a thief has your personal information, they can open credit accounts, take out loans, and even file fraudulent tax returns in your name. It can take years to clear your name and repair your credit score, and the emotional toll can be overwhelming.

The fear and anger that victims of identity theft experience is understandable. It’s a violation of their privacy and a betrayal of trust. It’s not just a financial loss; it can also affect their reputation and future opportunities. Imagine being denied a loan for a new business or a mortgage for your dream home because your credit score has been damaged by someone else’s actions.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that identity theft can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or financial status. Protecting your personal information and monitoring your credit regularly is crucial. By being proactive and staying vigilant, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of this insidious crime.

This blog post will explore how to protect yourself and what to do if you become a victim. So, buckle up and get ready to learn everything you need to protect yourself and your loved ones from this growing threat.

1. Find a Service that Monitors Your Identity or Credit

A credit monitoring service can be a valuable tool in protecting your credit and identity from the damage caused by identity theft. These services monitor your credit report and alert you to any changes or suspicious activity. This can include new accounts being opened in your name, changes to your address or employment information, or inquiries on your credit report.

Some popular credit monitoring services include Lifelock, Aura, and Identity Guard.  These services offer a variety of features, including credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and fraud alerts.

When you sign up for a credit monitoring service, you will be asked to provide personal information, such as your name, address, and social security number. The service will monitor your credit report and alert you to any changes or suspicious activity.

Using a credit monitoring service, you can stay on top of your credit report and catch any fraudulent activity before it causes too much damage. While these services can’t prevent identity theft from happening, they can provide an added layer of protection and peace of mind.

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Contact the three major credit bureaus to freeze or lock your credit.

2. Consider freezing or locking your credit until you make an offer

One of the downfalls of a credit monitoring service is that it can only notify you of an issue after someone has stolen your data. This is where freezing or locking credit comes in. Both processes prevent creditors from accessing your credit report, which stops criminals from opening a new account in your name.

Credit locks are products offered by consumer credit bureaus, and you can unlock your credit whenever you wish. Credit freezes are free as mandated by law, but unfreezing an account can take several days compared to locks. The three major credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Contact them for more information on how to freeze or lock your credit.

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Find an experienced and trustworthy real estate agent and mortgage broker.

3. Find real estate agents or mortgage lenders you can trust

Many people will have access to your personal information as part of the home-buying process. This is why you should seek highly recommended professionals from people you trust. Even after you find someone who is highly recommended, make sure to check his or her credentials. Your local Better Business Bureau will be able to tell you if any problems have been reported in the past.

If you’re considering buying a home in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland, consider Eng Garcia Realtors.  We have the experience and trust you need to make your home buying (or selling) experience safe and low-stress.

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Talk to your real estate professionals about keeping your information and credit secure.

4.  Talk to your real estate or mortgage lender about security

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, more than 400 million people had their sensitive data exposed in recent years. That number was a 126% increase from personal data exposure in 2017. Those statistics should encourage you to discuss security with your real estate and mortgage professionals. Make sure you have a safe way to send sensitive documents and ask them where they store personal information.

See if they have security in place in case of an online breach or security where they store physical documents.

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 Don't fall for phishing scams online.

5. Stay safe when you close

Fraudsters are always on the prowl, especially when large amounts of money are at stake. The Federal Trade Commission found people lost $1.48 billion to fraud last year. Keep yourself safe when buying a new home by using a secure computer with a password-protected network. Be wary of email phishing schemes, and avoid promises that seem too good to be true. Shred any documents with sensitive information once they’re no longer needed. Also, make sure to use a variety of passwords for different logins.

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Report any fraudulent activity on your accounts to the authorities.

6. Report identity theft

If you’ve become a victim of identity fraud, acting quickly to minimize the damage is crucial. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Contact your bank and credit card companies immediately. Report the fraud and request that they freeze your accounts or cancel your cards to prevent further unauthorized transactions.
  2. Check your credit reports for any suspicious activity. You can do this for free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can also sign up for credit monitoring services to monitor your credit activity.
  3. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is a government agency that helps to protect consumers from fraud and identity theft. You can report the fraud online, by phone, or by mail.
  4. Report the fraud to local law enforcement. Depending on the severity of the crime, they may investigate and pursue criminal charges against the person or people responsible.
  5. Consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit reports. This will make it harder for someone to open new accounts or loans in your name. Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to identity fraud. The faster you act, the better your chances of minimizing the damage and restoring your good name.

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