Preventing Identity Theft

It has happened more than once to our clients. It happens to dozens of people every day. It can happen to anyone, but a person selling their home is a popular target.

Here is the scenario: A client lists their home for sale. The property gets marketed to national and local websites promoting the house for sale. The next thing they know, their identity has been stolen. Bank accounts and credit cards have been opened up in their name. The homeowners catch people in front of their home, going through their mailbox! 

Why are home sellers the target?

What makes a person selling their home more susceptible to identity theft? The likely answer is because the owners tend to be away from home frequently or absent altogether. This is what makes them easy prey. 

How are thieves targeting homeowners?

The thieves sign up for Informed Delivery from the US Postal Service on the target address. They monitor mail delivery online before the owner has even received it. When the new credit cards or bank checks are due to arrive, they retrieve them from the mailbox before the homeowner can.

How can you protect yourself? 

These are the two most important steps you can take:

  1. Lock down your credit by issuing a credit freeze
  2. Sign up for Informed Delivery from the US Postal Service

How To Freeze Your Credit

The Federal Trade Commission has a great article on exactly what a credit freeze is and is not. It explains what you will be able to do with a freeze in place and how to go about temporarily lifting the freeze when needed. One reassuring thing to know is that a credit freeze does not affect your credit score. You can freeze your credit with all three major creditors. Here is the data you need to do this.

Equifax
Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
800-685-1111

Experian
Experian.com/help
888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Transunion
TransUnion.com/credit-help
888-909-8872

Sign up for Informed Delivery

Since identity thieves are also stealing mail, it is essential to understand what is being delivered to your home each day. The United States Postal Service offers a product called Informed Delivery. You need to sign up for this service before the criminals do. Once you have signed up for it, no one else can have the same function on your address. This valuable service alerts you each day as to what is being delivered. You can know when important items are at your home and check to make sure that nothing is missing when you pick up the mail.