Identity theft is a perplexing crime on a number of levels. Victims often spend a great deal of time wondering why, and an even greater amount of time wondering how their information was stolen. However, once you understand the basic pieces of data needed to commit fraud, you can see that obtaining this information is not impossible, especially if the individual in question is not being vigilant about controlling their personal data.
Nowhere is this truer than in the mortgage accounts area. Though identity theft victims who find out through their credit reports that their personal data has been used to take out new mortgage loans may be puzzled, tracing the data back it is easy to see how it happens. With just a few pieces of key information, mortgage accounts can be opened, and far too many consumers readily part with this data without thinking through the consequences.
Social Security Numbers
To run credit approvals for loans, mortgage accounts need social security data. Often, consumers write this information in unencrypted email, dictate it over the phone to a receptionist, or put it on a piece of paper for a mortgage clerk. This can be easily swiped, as these casual exchanges are rarely encrypted or shredded later.
Along with Social Security data, identity thieves need a few pieces of verifying data. Mother’s maiden name, first pet’s name, or the name of your high school can all be further keys to unlock your personal accounts. All too often, this information can be easily lifted from blogs, Facebook accounts, or Twitter memes.
To protect yourself as a consumer, hide your tweets and maximize the security settings on your Facebook. Don’t make friends with mortgage brokers or their staff. It is estimated that more than 80% of the mortgage fraud originates with a known party involved in the transaction, so separating personal life and financial activities can be key.
Past addresses, work history, and previous banking relationships are also often used by identity thieves to open accounts in your name. Thus, it is important when completing background information for realtors or mortgage lenders to question why information is needed and what will be done to maintain the security of your data. In many cases, by showing that you are an aware and alert consumer, you can discourage opportunistic theft of your personal data.