Scammers finding personal information online and targeting homeowners
Homeowners and the elderly are in particular favorite targets of unethical scam artists. They have multiple cons that they run using simple information such as your name, address, phone number, tax information, mortgage information, and other data they find online or purchase from data brokers. One such scam involves offering you a refinance on your home loan. A company will call offering a great rate and will seem to have a lot of information about you and your financial situation. You then give them even more data which they can use for a variety of illegal activities such as identity theft, account theft, and other scams. They can open credit cards in your name and max the accounts out before you even know there’s an account out there. Companies like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian are supposed to protect our private information, but instead, they sell it for a profit. Unfortunately, these three companies are also considered “reporting agencies” which sure does seem like a conflict of interest, but they are the ones specified by the federal government and big businesses to keep track of our debts, credit cards, payments, and other very private information. These companies, even with inaccuracies and varying information between the three, are used by all sorts of companies to decide loan rates, credit card rates, and insurance prices! If it seems odd to you that three companies who can’t even get their data to agree is being entrusted with decisions like how much we should pay in car insurance and what our mortgage interest rates should be, you’re not alone.
It is important, though, to wade through the conflicting and inaccurate information and challenges the false data to get it removed. It will take a lot of time and effort, and it may turn out that they just return everything back to what they had after a few months anyway. One agency can say you have no debt and another can say you have something in your history that may not be yours or should have come off your report but never did. This does not seem to matter to insurance companies and banks, however, so, even if you have to fight and send your proof in, again and again, keep doing it until the data is fixed. Experian is the best of the three about communication. They will, at least, try to help, even if they do sell all your information to marketers and advertisers for a profit.
If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, or are elderly and have your home paid off, do NOT engage in conversations with third parties trying to sell you a loan or to refinance, or to offer cash for your house. Hang up the phone and block the number. These people are criminals. A legitimate bank will not call you to offer a refinance out of the blue. In fact, to change your interest rate or take a second mortgage on your home, you generally have to contact your bank to discuss this information. They will rarely reach out to you. Even if you think it’s your personal bank, politely hang up. If you want to refinance or take out a loan, go right to your branch and speak with someone in person. The only way to avoid scams is to be aware of how they happen. Getting your personal information off the internet will help keep some data out of the hands of these scammers. The data they buy from data brokers, like LexisNexis, on the other hand, can’t be controlled. So you will have to be alert to petty thieves and hang up or report them to the police.