Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America and most of us are doing nothing to protect ourselves from its devastating consequences!
As a mortgage professional I consistently see victims of financial or credit identity theft. It haunts many, many people and disturbs or completely thwarts the home buying or refinancing process. Most people had no idea the identity theft had occurred, or that they owed debts in other states or cities. Judgments, collections and large bills show up on the credit report and it is simply a very big surprise.
One of the main reasons we recommend people start the pre approval process immediately when they start thinking of buying a home is because of this trend. Many folks find inaccurate data in the credit report and it takes time to correct. In the case of Identity Theft, it could take years to actually correct! Many times we are able to get things in order enough to complete the home loan, but the restoration process is cumbersome and time consuming.
Another area of identity theft that has been getting media attention is the type used to secure medical treatment by stealing your identity to use health insurance. I honestly don't mean to scare you here... actually maybe I do. This is serious stuff! If somebody with a different blood type manages to get your medical records updated with their blood type, this puts you in serious jeopardy if you are hospitalized and need to have blood. Not to mention the fact that they are using up your "life cap" on your insurance policy, potentially leaving you and your covered family members without the availability of coverage they deserve.
I recently learned that there are multiple forms of Identity theft, some of these are:
•1) Criminal Fraud - They get arrested with a counterfeit version of your identity
•2) Medical Fraud - We discussed that up front.
•3) Financial Fraud - Reporting of income under your social security number
•4) Credit Fraud - Buying homes, cars, boats and getting credit cards in your name
•5) Many others - Currently, there are 25 different types of identity theft investigated by the secret service.
There are several things an individual should be doing to prevent and monitor Identity Theft personally.
•1) Visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com/ and get on the list! This list prohibits the credit bureaus from selling your identity and credit info to third parties. It also keeps credit companies from sending you pre approved credit cards in the mail (an ID Theft criminal's favorite piece of mail!)
•2) Review your credit report personally, or with your mortgage professional at least every 6 months. You can get a free copy of your report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ .Enroll in a reputable credit monitoring and ID Theft restorations service. Credit monitoring is not enough! You need to have the protection associated with Identity restoration. You can visit www.prepaidlegal.com/hub/traviswolfe and click on Identity Theft Shield to learn more.