What Your Mortgage Customers need to know about Identity Theft Protection
How many of your potential customers have been affected by data breaches? The odds are good that at least some have been, given the massive size of recent breaches. Over the past few years, a staggering 3 billion Yahoo accounts were compromised and a separate hack on the credit bureau Equifax exposed the personal information of 145.5 million people.
Your customers may be completely unaware of the dangers of data breaches – especially the Equifax breach, because they may not understand that Equifax has their personal information whether or not they have ever had any contact with the credit bureau. Alert them to the potential dangers and how identity theft can scuttle a loan application.
Let Customers Know
Potential customers may have no idea that their credit has been compromised until they apply for a loan and are surprised by a rejection. Advise your customers to check their credit on a regular basis.
Everyone is entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Suggest that they take advantage of those reports and look for errors or evidence of a fraudulent account opened in their name.
Protection is Key
To find out if they were affected by the Equifax breach, your customers should check the Equifax website.
It’s a good idea for your customers to take steps to protect their credit in any case. Identity thieves have many avenues to steal information. If your customers don’t trust Equifax anymore, other credit monitoring and identity theft protection services are available.
As a lender, the more you can educate a current or future borrower on how important it now is to stay on top of their credit protection, the better off for all honest parties. Protecting a consumer’s credit reduces the risk of getting a new loan in the future, or slowing down the process. Your customers don’t want a credit breach to derail their trying to get a loan, which is already a stressful, non-guaranteed process.
Suggest a Credit Freeze
One way that customers can protect themselves is to apply a credit freeze with all three credit bureaus. A credit freeze restricts access to credit files and keeps anyone from opening a credit line on the frozen account – even the customer.
If a customer has frozen their credit, they will need to “thaw” it in advance by contacting the credit bureaus to remove the freeze during the mortgage loan process, and then reapply it after the mortgage loan is complete. That’s true for any new credit account or loan, not just mortgages.
Generally, there is a small fee to freeze credit and “thaw” it later, but the protection it provides can be worth the extra money and attention that’s required.
Lend a Helping Hand
Don’t let your customer base be blindsided by identity theft. Encourage them to take pre-emptive steps to protect their credit, and direct them to useful resources such as the Federal Trade Commission if they have already been affected. They will be grateful for your help and will remember you when the time comes for them to purchase a home.
While you’re at it, you may want to make sure that thieves haven’t abused your own personal information. Have you checked your credit report lately?