The process of buying a home means working with a number of professionals, from mortgage brokers to real estate agents and home inspectors.
It also requires you to give many of those people access to sensitive personal information. How can you make sure they will safeguard it and help reduce your chances of identity theft?
The National Association of Realtors®, with a membership of 1.2 million residential and commercial REALTORS®, launched a Data Security and Privacy Toolkit six years ago to help members keep client information secure. It also offers an online training course for real estate agents on data protection best practices.
The association encourages agents to create, maintain and follow a data security program and document retention policy, and avoid storing clients’ personal information for longer than necessary.
Once you select a real estate agent and mortgage professionals, ask them about the systems they have in place to protect personal information, whether they store it and for how long, where it will be stored, and when and how it will be disposed of. Ask if they use encrypted email systems; if their devices are password protected; and whether they have security software installed on their computers.
Check companies’ reputations online, and also ask about security practices of any other companies involved, such as title companies.
Information should only be sent on secure sites – look for the https in the URL and a lock icon next to it. Those sites should also require strong passwords.
In addition, talk to your home inspection company about your personal information and whether it will be sold to third parties. Many home inspection companies post privacy policies on their web sites to address what personal information they collect, how it is used and whether it is shared with others. You can also check company reviews online.
Dealing with professionals referred by friends and family is one way to help better ensure a good homebuying experience. But it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with their data security procedures before turning over your personal information.