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Protecting Your Privacy from Trigger Leads

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Applying for a residential mortgage loan can be time consuming and stressful. And nowadays, home buyers have another stress to contend with when applying for financing: They may be bombarded with unsolicited "trigger leads" from competing lenders—or scammers may try to access an applicant's personal data.

As a lender evaluates your loan application, it accesses your credit report, and credit bureaus monitor this access. They then gather the information and sell it to other lenders. This may result in unsolicited loan offers, many of which appear competitive but, on closer inspection, usually come with significant fees.

Before applying for a home loan, you need to understand how to prevent your information from being sold as a trigger lead. And, if you rush to apply for a loan on your dream home and don't have time to prevent the sale of your data, you should know how to mitigate any adverse effects of unsolicited offers you might receive.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Lenders that buy trigger leads will call, email and send texts with unsolicited loan offers. Offers of fast closings, high approval limits and low interest rates may appear compelling. But they often come with significant, undisclosed fees. In some cases, the "lender" may be a criminal who intends to use your data to commit fraud.

Most cell phones easily block calls and texts from unknown numbers. Some telecommunications providers also provide warnings with incoming calls that pose spam risks. Additionally, you can install a third-party app to detect and block suspicious calls and texts.

Remember, answering a call or responding to an email or text signals to a lender that its messages are being received and read. Instead of interacting with an electronic message, flag it as spam, then block and delete it.

Limit Unwanted Access

To make it harder for random lenders to use your data, go to the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website. This site allows you to opt out of trigger leads for five years by filling out a form online, or permanently by submitting a form through the mail.

Since many lenders will attempt to contact you via phone, registering with the National Do Not Call Registry can also help minimize the volume of unsolicited calls. Plus, you can visit the Direct Marketing Association website to reduce how much direct promotional mail you receive.

Evaluating Unsolicited Loan Offers

Applying for a mortgage can result in offers from unfamiliar lenders with enticing offers and high-pressure sales tactics. You may be tempted to respond to get better loan terms than you received from your original lender of choice.

Before responding, research a company's reviews online. Go to more than one site when conducting your due diligence, as some allow companies to remove negative feedback. If you don't find any online reviews for a lender, it might be a new company—or it could be an established company that has found ways to suppress negative comments.

If the company's online reviews appear favorable, closely scrutinize the offer, and compare it to the original lender's offer. Pay close attention to the fine print—that's where unscrupulous lenders bury fees and other onerous terms, hoping to escape a prospective borrower's scrutiny. Also consider discussing any prospective offers with your real estate agent or broker. Real estate pros are familiar with many lenders and might have insider knowledge that you won't find online.

Verify Data Requests

Regardless of which lender you select to finance your home purchase, you'll be required to provide extensive documentation to support your loan application. Some fraudsters buy trigger leads, pretend to be underwriters and ask you provide personal data.

If in doubt about the identity of an individual who claims to be the underwriter assigned to your file, contact your primary point of contact at the financial institution or lender. Most lenders use dedicated portals to upload relevant documents instead of email to avoid confusion and prevent personal data from being compromised.

Too Good to Be True?

Trigger leads aren't necessarily all bad. They may help prospective borrowers who are searching for residential mortgages with favorable terms. However, in the end, many companies that resort to this tactic can't compete with other lenders. Before responding to an unsolicited offer from an unfamiliar lender, take the time to examine the details closely.

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