The recent breach of personal consumer information from the national credit bureau Equifax could affect home buyers significantly. Homebuyers and mortgage applications have a significant amount of information on file at the bureaus that could potentially turn into trouble for some in the future.
Equifax says that as many as 143 million consumers’ personal data may have been affected and information like your address, Social Security number, driver’s license and credit card numbers could now be in the hands of thieves.
The outcome of a breach of this magnitude can have long-lasting effects for consumers, some analysts are concerned that Equifax—and all credit reporting companies—are not doing enough to educate consumers.
Equifax says they will soon be sending letters to potential victims. With a breach of this size, one should just assume that information has been leaked and take steps to protect themselves.
Do you know what to do?
Start by placing a freeze on your credit card
Pull and read your credit report
The worst thing that could happen is that you ignore this problem and allow it to fester over time.
Take this scenario: Say your Equifax file was stolen, but you’ve done little or nothing to detect fraudulent activity on one or more of your credit accounts. You sign a contract to buy a house, and you apply for a mortgage. The lender pulls your credit and confronts you with shocking news: Your credit score is too low for you to qualify for the loan because you’ve been running up too much debt on your accounts.
They say that you have utilized too much of your available credit or you’ve established too many new accounts and as a result, some of these actions have placed you in deep debt. The worst part is, you had nothing to do with it.
You have to take action. You’re in the middle of a major life investment and now have to do a 360 to find and fix the issues that have been uncovered. Now, you’re wondering what happens to your purchase contract? Will the sellers work with you by putting off the transaction until your credit is cleared? Honestly, there is no way to know what the sellers will do, every situation is different.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus both offer defensive guidance.
The FTC also has helpful information on identify-theft countermeasures.
Everyone is highly encouraged to utilize the three-bureau credit monitoring service being offered by Equifax at equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Most important first step: Check your three credit reports free at annualcreditreport.com and see whether anyone has been tampering with your accounts.
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