Online Mortgage Shopping Can Put Personal Information At Risk

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Mortgage websites can expose home loan shoppers to privacy threats including trigger leads, multiple sales of their personal information, and even identity theft. Consumer educator and author Gerri Detweiler of FreeRateSearch.com offers tips to help consumers protect themselves when using online mortgage shopping sites.

Mortgage shoppers may be getting more than they bargain for when they search for home loan rates online, cautions FreeRateSearch.com. Threats to consumer privacy include trigger leads, lead aggregators and outright fraud, all of which can lead to bait-and-switch loan tactics and even identity theft.

"Most consumers wouldn't post their sensitive financial information online if they knew it would be sold to someone they don't know," says Gerri Detweiler, education director for FreeRateSearch.com "But that's exactly what can happen when consumers go online to shop for mortgages loans."

FreeRateSearch.com, the first site that allows consumers to get mortgage rate quotes anonymously, warns about these threats to consumer privacy from many online mortgage shopping sites:

Trigger leads: When consumer's credit reports are reviewed in conjunction with mortgage applications, they are identified as "hot" mortgage prospects with the credit reporting agencies, and their information will almost immediately be added to "trigger lead" lists. These lists are then sold to lenders who will contact mortgage shoppers to try to get their business. Trigger lists often include such details as the borrower's name, address, and telephone number, and sensitive information such as credit scores and amount of debt. Trigger leads may be sold to multiple lenders, or even to "lead aggregators" who then resell that information to more than one lender.

Lead generators and aggregators: Many companies promising fast online mortgage rate quotes are simply enticing consumers to provide detailed information about their loan needs. Lead generators sell that information directly to one or more lenders, or to lead aggregators, who then sell those lists to multiple lending companies. Again, these lists may include sensitive information such as consumer's names, addresses, telephone numbers, income, debt and creditworthiness.

Phishing Fraud: Consumers should also be cautious about providing personal information in conjunction with online mortgage advertising come-ons because, in a few cases, ads for very low-rate mortgages have been used to gather information for "phishing" scams. In these extreme cases, there's no lender ready to provide the promised loans, but instead, the details gathered are used to commit identity theft.

Advice for Consumers Offered
Shopping online for a mortgage can still be the most efficient way to compare offers, but consumers must be careful to protect their personal information. FreeRateSearch.com offers the following tips:

Call 1-888-5OPT-OUT or visit OptOutPrescreen.com at least one week before shopping for a mortgage to request the three major credit reporting agencies block your name from pre-screening for credit offers, which include mortgage trigger lead lists.

Register with the federal Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 or by going to Donotcall.gov. Keep in mind that by filling out a form on a lead aggregation site, you may be giving your permission to be called by multiple lenders.

Be very cautious about giving personal information to a company that does not disclose the names of lenders that will receive it.

Look for a current security certificate and/or membership with a third party validation service before providing personal information online. These services require websites to meet certain standards for data security, and help ensure data is transmitted securely online. Also take time to check out the website's security and privacy policy.

"To avoid these risks, mortgage shoppers can take advantage of the free, anonymous rate searches available at FreeRateSearch.com," says Detweiler. Consumers can receive custom mortgage rate quotes, regardless of their credit rating, without providing any personally identifiable information at FreeRateSearch.com.

About FreeRateSearch.com
FreeRateSearch.com is the first website that allows consumers to search for customized, unbiased mortgage rate information from multiple lenders, quickly and anonymously. Its mission is to help match consumers save money by connecting them with a lender who will match the best rate. A service of Lender Rate Match LLC, it is offered by mortgage banking executives and employs proven mortgage pricing technology currently used by select mortgage underwriters, loan originators, and mortgage banking firms.

Note: FreeRateSearch.com and LenderRateMatch are trademarks of Lender Rate Match LLC.

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Gerri Deweiler
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