Real estate transactions consist of mountains of paperwork. Loan applications, purchase contracts, credit reports, disclosures, mortgages, W-9 forms and HUD/RESPA statements. Many of these contain your social security number (SS#) and other vital information that could be stolen by one of the many people whose eyes it passes by. Factor in faxes and emails containing the information and it would be easy for your identity to be stolen when buying or selling a home. Mark Nash author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home and a syndicated columnist for RealtyTimes.com offers tips on how to protect your identity in the purchase or sale of your home.
-Require all transaction participants if they have a Client Identity Protection Program (CIPP) in place. This can help insure that they have controls and procedures in place to curb the possibility of client identity and financial information being left in the path of identity lifters. Mortgage origination companies and loan processing departments, real estate brokerages, law firms, title and escrow companies should have document shredding policies, fax and email safeguards (you don’t want your social security number sitting in a fax machine or email on unsecured systems). Determine how out-dated files are disposed of, they should be taken and shredded or burned by professional document disposal companies.
-Mortgage loan applications require a social security number to run a credit check. Never give your social security number over the phone, and if you have too, make sure that the person receiving it doesn’t repeat it out load. Never send your SS# by email or fax. Ditto credit and debit card numbers.
-If you have pulled your own credit reports, be careful who you give them too. It’s best to deliver them in person to the requester. Don’t fax or email credit reports. Never give loan consultants password to your credit reports online.
-Real estate purchase contracts often have buyer and seller blanks for social security numbers. Limit your use of these. Offer to submit a separate IRS W-9 form to the closing department agent of the listing brokerage.
-W-9 forms. The Internal Revenue Service requires home buyers and sellers to complete a W-9 form. This Internal Revenue Service form requests taxpayer identification number and certification. Verify the security of all people holding this form. Write do not copy, fax or scan across the top and bottom.
-Do not place your social security number on the HUD or RESPA form. Only the closing, escrow or title agent needs to put their TIN or Tax identification number on the RESPA statement. HUD/RESPA (Housing and Urban Development/Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act): A document and statement that details all of the monies paid out and received at a real estate property closing.
-The most common way for your identity to be stolen is if your wallet is lost or stolen. Keep a close watch on it at all times.
-Shred all unsolicited credit-card offers in your name. Mailbox theft accounts for an increasing number of identity theft cases.
-Online theft has stabilized, but never respond to an email asking for personal financial information or account numbers, password and user names without verifying if it is legitimate first.
Russell J. Montjoy
Exit Deluxe reality
4600 N Park Ave.
Chevy Chase, Md. 20815