Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Scott Bechler, the director of life services at LifeLock, for his three ways to protect real estate clients from identity theft.
Did you know that new homeowners are nearly three times more likely to be victims of identity theft?
That revealing study, which was conducted by Forrester Research, found that individuals who purchased a home within the past year were indeed more likely to have been a victim of identity theft. That is hardly surprising when you think about how much personal information your clients give out when buying or selling a home. But when client relationships are the heart of your revenue, it is critical to be their advocates when it comes to protecting their personal information.
Here are three easy ways you can go the extra mile to help your clients.
3. Understand the Problem – Identity fraud is a problem. Breaches are becoming increasingly common in today’s world, and according to the 2015 Identity Fraud by Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 12.7 million U.S. adults had been a victim of identity theft in past 12 months. This same study also highlights that the total fraud losses due to identity theft amounted to $16 billion. It’s no secret that any type of real estate transaction requires clients to fork over a lot of personally identifying information, including Social Security numbers, date of birth, bank account information, credit history and more. During the buying or selling process, the personal information of real estate clients may be circulating more frequently than usual, potentially heightening their risk for identity theft.
2. Adopt a Philosophy of Safeguarding Information – Protecting personal information comes down to having a good partnership with your client and coaching them on protection strategies. Not only is it a smart business practice to use password-protected file-sharing services, it’s also a good idea to suggest that clients take precautions when interacting with their lenders and other important partners. Chances are, potential buyers have been closely checking their credit scores as they begin this process. Encourage your clients to take extra precaution during the sale and immediately following when it comes to their identity. That includes investigating any unusual entries on their credit report or unexpected notices in the mail regarding new accounts or mortgages they did not apply for.
Because so much personal information is passed through email, it is also a smart move to advise clients to update their email password as a precaution, especially considering they could be transferring scanned copies of their identification cards or other sensitive documents. When dealing with paperwork, is it always a good idea to shred documents with any type of client information on it.
1. Set Your Clients Up for Long-Term Identity Success – It is not unusual for fraudsters to sit on stolen identities for months or even years before using them to their advantage, so it is critical that the identity protection process is consistent and ongoing following a real estate transaction.
Set your clients up for long-term success when it comes to protecting their identities by following up with them after a transaction has been made. Providing clients with access to a discounted identity protection service can also be an appreciated and added value for them. In addition, an ongoing subscription in the months and years following a real estate purchase can be a subtle reminder to a client of their experience with you.
The steps you take to safeguard your clients will have a lasting impact for a potentially lifetime partnership with them.
Scott Bechler is the director of life services at LifeLock.