As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, July 2011.
As guardians and conveyors of massive troves of sensitive personal information, mortgage professionals are perfectly situated to become leaders in identity-theft prevention. There’s no shortage of staggering statistics and catastrophic cases to prove the need for identity-theft protection. In fact, some evidence shows that everyone — yes, even you — already has had their identity stolen. Most people, however, don’t realize it … yet.
Not only can identity theft destroy a person’s finances, but it also can cause severe emotional distress. Mortgage professionals can help their clients avoid these effects. By adding identity-theft prevention and protection to your business model, you also can grow your product offering and provide a much-needed service in today’s economy.
Identity theft has increased tremendously in the past decade, with one study showing more than 500 million sensitive records breached in the U.S. since 2005. Numerically speaking, that means every resident has had some of their information stolen at least once.
The methods and manners thieves use vary greatly, and mortgage applicants are often targeted. In some ways, the size of your desire to fill this role is immaterial. Your clients perceive you as a trusted adviser. If you fail to safeguard their information, you could face drastic consequences and a severe or total loss of business.
Although many mortgage professionals already field questions related to identity-protection daily, many have a skewed understanding of what constitutes identity theft.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses — or intends to use — another individual’s personal identifying information, such as a Social Security number or credit card number, without permission.
A common misconception is that a crime must be committed after the identifying information is stolen to be considered identity theft. This, however, is inconsistent with the definition of other crimes of theft.
If your credit card is stolen, must it be used fraudulently before it is considered theft?
No. It is theft the moment it’s taken.
The same rationale applies to identity theft.
Understanding this is the first step toward protecting clients. After all, the idea is to prevent their information from being stolen — and if stolen, from being used — before their accounts are tapped and their finances are compromised.
Study and teach
By learning more about identity theft and how to prevent it — and how to help clients recover, if affected — mortgage professionals can establish credibility and create peer separation.
An expertise in identity-theft prevention also can:
Create a branding opportunity;
Increase your closing ratio;
Build your referral partnerships; and
Lead to more clients.
These outcomes are especially likely in today’s housing market because of heightened concerns about identity theft. According to a 2009 Gallup Poll, identity theft is the nation’s No. 1 crime concern.
Referral partners want to send loans to mortgage professionals they respect and trust, and consumers want to send their friends and acquaintances to the same.
Mortgage professionals can gain a more complete understanding of identity-theft prevention by studying the subject carefully. In turn, they can pass along the information through seminars, classes and personal relationships. They also can prove their worth by developing a track record of protecting clients’ information successfully.
Just the facts
To be considered an identity-protection expert, you must abandon rumors and innuendo — both run rampant in today’s mortgage industry — and concentrate on supportable facts. You can do this by taking courses from fraud-prevention experts. Look for organizations that offer dependable, comprehensive and timely resources and courses.
The best educational sources also provide a medium for ongoing interaction and community-building with other professionals. This allows for shared storytelling and insights into identity thieves’ changing behavior.
Ideally, an organization also will provide a certification for professionals who complete its requirement and prove their newfound expertise.
By turning identity theft into an educational opportunity, mortgage professionals have a chance to protect themselves, their colleagues and their clients while also expanding their influence and business.
Denis G. Kelly
is an identity-theft-prevention expert. He is the author of The Official Identity Theft Prevention Handbook; chairman of the Identity Ambassador Commission (IdentityAmbassador.org), an identity-theft education and training organization; CEO of ID Cuffs Inc. (IDCuffs.com), an identity-theft-prevention company; and editor-in-chief of TheIDChannel.com, a centralized resource of the latest identity-theft news and information. Kelly is also a featured speaker at industry events. He resides in Miami Beach, Fla. Contact (866) 938-4035 or info@IdentityAC.com.