Homebuyers often face a litany of concerns, ranging from furniture to fixed-rates. Identity theft may not be among them.
A recent report by identity theft monitoring service IdentityTruth offered insight on the risk these individuals face while seeking a mortgage. Massive quantities of paperwork paired with frantic phone calls from lenders can make it difficult to keep track of where - and how - personal information is being shared.
"With any major financial transaction - be that applying for a mortgage or purchasing a home or car - there is an inherent risk of identity theft," said Steven Domenikos, CEO of IdentityTruth. "Combine that financial upheaval with the process of uprooting your life to move to a new location, homeowners are uniquely at-risk for becoming victims of identity theft."
Like at any other time, it is important for those moving to a new home to keep their personal documents secure. This may mean shredding any paperwork that is no longer relevant, or locking important documents away. A safety deposit box may work best for those in the process of packing up their furniture.
Consumers should be just as conscientious when it comes to forms they mail out.
"It is imperative that you remain vigilant about where all of this paperwork is going," the report said. "Don’t hesitate to ask that the preparer file them in [a] safe and secure place and ensure that discarded papers are shredded."
It is also best to communicate with these filers in person, particularly when sharing personal information. Those who seek mortgage quotes online should make sure they are using a secure website and have the most current virus-detecting software available. This can prevent them from being targeted by fraudulent websites, as well as malware devices that record their keystrokes.
They should also be wary of the information they throw away. Homebuyers are often targeted by credit card lenders because they present a new - and financially responsible - opportunity for income. Discarding pre-approved credit card applications may also create an opportunity for identity thieves, who may use these offers to open fraudulent accounts.
A separate report by IdentityTruth showed that about 79 million Americans will be targeted in 2010, with the majority of these crimes happening outside the credit card system. Other common types include Social Security, real estate and healthcare fraud. Consumers may be able to reduce the amount of time it takes them to detect fraudulent activity by enrolling in a credit monitoring system.