The thief goes straight for your home.
Once an identity thief has enough personal information about you – social security number, account numbers, security answer questions, etc. – he or she can act as you in a conversation with anyone — including mortgage lenders. With your information a thief can:
- Transfer the deed to your house to themselves, get a mortgage, and stick you with the bill.
- Refinance your home for more than you owe, taking that extra money and running.
- Take out a home equity line of credit using your home as collateral.
Because identity thieves work in the background, you have no knowledge of these debts. They’re recorded as liens against your title. If the theft doesn’t result in your home being taken away or going into foreclosure, you could be on the hook for these loans when you try and sell the property.
The victim in these cases stands to lose everything: Their good credit rating, their home, and a lot of money. In fact, if you have a great financial record, a good credit score, and you owe little on your mortgage, you are a prime target for identity thieves.
It’s more important than ever to keep your personal information safe and out of the hands of thieves. Here are just a few things you can do to protect your identity:
- Don’t carry your social security card
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for information by phone, mail, or online
- Collect mail from your mailbox as soon as possible
- Shield the screen when you’re typing passwords, PINs, and other information on screens and ATMs
- Install firewalls and anti-virus software on your computers
- Use complex passwords
- Review your annual credit report