The recent Equifax data breach, which exposed the personal information of about 143 million Americans—one of the largest hacks on record—could put home sales at risk. For consumers trying to get a mortgage, the data breach, which compromised people’s Social Security numbers, addresses, and credit card information, could stall their loan approval or put them at risk for having their information stolen and used in unlawful real estate transactions.
Scammers could also use stolen Social Security numbers to open up new credit cards and rack up debt under a person’s name, which could ruin the victim’s credit score. “If you have your identity stolen, it causes a lot of problems,” Don Frommeyer, a mortgage loan officer at Marine Bank in Indianapolis, told realtor.com®. “You have to prove it wasn’t you.”
Rob Douglas, an identity theft expert, predicts there will be an increase in fraudulent mortgage and refinance applications due to the Equifax breach. Loan officers may have to put additional vetting procedures in place, which, in turn, could slow down the loan approval process and burden borrowers with extra costs.
What Consumers Should Do
For your clients to better protect themselves, security experts recommend taking the following steps:
- Check your exposure. To see whether the Equifax breach affected you, go to https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html
- Freeze your accounts. If you have been affected, contact each of the big credit-reporting companies immediately to freeze your credit, security experts recommend. You can either do this online or by calling them. Equifax: 800-349-9960; Experian: 888‑397‑3742; TransUnion: 888-909-8872. You will still be able to use your credit cards, even with freezes in place, but no one will be able to check credit scores and personal information without your permission. You can also undo the freezes at any time, though that does often require a small fee.
- Continue to monitor your credit. “It might be worth signing up for a credit monitoring service,” says Pete Mills, senior vice president of residential policy at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “It’s certainly easier to undo a fraudulent account within a few days” than to wait a few months to address it.
Source: “Why the Equifax Breach Might Make It Harder to Buy a Home – and What You Can Do,” realtor.com® (Sept. 15, 2017)