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 lending. A financial review by a lender may be tripped up if their identity has been taken, and their homebuying dreams could quickly be taken from them.
“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 can take many forms. Some criminals steal a Social Security number and then use it to open credit cards or loans in the person’s name. That can ruin a credit score, needed to qualify for a mortgage.
Home buyers should do advance work in ensuring their finances are up to par and have not 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 told realtor.com®. “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, there is a 60-day window to report any suspicious activity in an account. After that, you may be on the hook for any amounts stolen from your 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 your passwords immediately.