If you’re a prospective homebuyer, having a good credit rating is an important part of the mortgage process. And while there are a range of strategies for building and maintaining good credit, identity theft can damage your efforts and rapidly lower your credit score.
As discussed in our first identity theft blog post, identity theft occurs through a range of methods, and there are clear signs when you may be a victim.
In our second post in a three-part series, we present eight tips to substantially lower your risk of identity theft:
- Use a paper shredder to shred mail and documents that contain identifying information (such as your bank account or credit card number)
- Protect your mail by depositing outgoing mail in post office collection boxes, and promptly removing incoming mail from your home mailbox
- Never give personal information on the phone to unknown individuals asking to verify account numbers (or check your balance)
- Remove excess credit cards from your wallet when traveling
- Only carry your passport or Medicare card when you need it
- Check your credit report using a free website and review it closely for fraudulent accounts and charges
- Save your credit card receipts and reviewing them against your monthly bills for unauthorized charges
- Avoid giving your credit card to individuals who can swipe your credit card outside your view (such as restaurant waiters)—when possible, pay cash instead.
It’s also important to protect your identity online
In an era where many people are online throughout the day (especially on mobile devices), there are rapidly growing online safety risks. These include:
Internet scams – frauds that trick users into sending money and giving out their personal information
Phishing – fraudulent emails that attempt to persuade you into replying with your personal information, or clicking a link in an email that asks you to enter your information. Important reminder: legitimate companies never ask you to provide your password or account number through email.
Announcing personal information online – in the modern world, it’s common to post personal information online, such as on social media or blogs. But stop and think before posting your private information. If you wouldn’t verbally announce information to hundreds (or thousands) of people, you shouldn’t announce this information online.
For excellent information on online safety, we suggest visiting the USA.gov website.
Identity theft can’t be completely prevented, but you can greatly lower your risks
You can’t completely eliminate your chances of experiencing identity theft, but there are a range of ways to lower your risks. Stay tuned to our next blog post for tips on getting approved for a mortgage if you’re an identity theft victim.