I am perplexed at the number of real estate agents, and moreso their managers and brokers who are failing the test for the new FACTA legislation that will be in effect on November 1, 2008. Some real estate agents are still collecting sensitive client information like Social Security numbers, birthdates, and even client credit card numbers without regard to guarding against someone hacking into their computers, emailing these documents on non secured sites to loan officers; or leaving sensitive data on their desks for anyone, (including the cleaning crews) to obtaining enough information to breach their customer's personal security and exposing them to Identity Theft. Should this be traced back to the real estate broker or mortgage company, serious fines can be levied, and worse, the exposure to local media of these type of breaches can be devasting to future business. Check out this CNN article just published.
As you will read in this most recent CNN article on doing our due diligence on protecting client information, all of us need to know that it is more than just shredding documents. Here are a few helpful hints to agents and originators on protecting your client's data.
1. Avoid using wireless access on broadband when inputting client information on your computer. There are hackers who know how to access your data and IP address and steal this information. Worse yet, they sleep on this information and phish for more data on the client so that they can later steal their identities.
2. Do not have clients give sensitive information through email unless the site is secured on both ends. It is best to provide this through personal phone calls or physically meeting with them if possible. Shred any documents that can be used to steal idenities in a file that are duplicated or not needed for the loan.
3. Agents need to have a sign in for anyone entering their open houses, and warning sellers to put away any documents that could be determined as personal security sensitive.
4. Discourage your real estate referral partners on obtain a client's documentation or personal information, rather have them call the originator with that information. Passing this information along just creates a potential for getting in the wrong hands.
5. Sellers are usually ridding themselves of junk when moving, as are buyers in anticipation of moving. Many times, this involves pitching boxes of old tax returns, bank statements, floppy disks, credit card statements, omputers, and other personal information. A great value added service would be to provide them with a list of items they should not throw out, but burn or shred. If they do not have access, offer to have these destroyed by a service like Iron Mountain. Many municipalities offer this service to residents, but require them to be physically there to destroy these documents. Be proactive.
6. If your clients are victims of IDT, encourage them to obtain IDT protection from the many providers out there, including insurance companies; services offered by the Big Three repositories, and Prepaid Legal Services, Inc. All have some degree of protection through monitoring and restoration services.
Check out the CNN article to open up your eyes on due diligence and compliane with FACTA, or visit my website at www.prepaidlegal.com/idt/richardjcyngier for more information on IDT.