2022 Boise Idaho Real Estate Blog

Identity Theft Scare!

Main Boise Home Loans

A friend of mine recently shared her identity theft scare with me. Her bank notified her of several attempted purchases in Ethiopia and a renters insurance premium charge that was applied to her debit card in Nevada. She didn't lose any money and the credit card company didn't approve the charges. Nevertheless, she was scared! She encouraged me to notify my clients about identity theft and how it can happen to ANYONE and ANYWHERE...even here in little Nampa, Idaho. What can you do to limit your risk? Here are some self-defense strategies for you to consider...


In many cases, your debit card looks exactly like a credit card. It even acts exactly like a credit card when used to purchases goods or services. However, unlike a credit card, YOUR MONEY in your checking/saving accounts is attached to that card. When you make a purchase with your debit card, software captures your card's personal identification number (PIN) when you type it in at the retailer's check out station. Sometimes, your PIN information remains in the creditor's system where employees can access them.

Self Defense -- Ask your bank if you can specify that your debit card only work at ATM's and not at retailers. Or, use the credit card function attached to your debit card that allows you to make purchases WITHOUT keying in your PIN. Or better yet, use a credit card for ALL purchases each month, and then pay off the balance in full...therefore not incurring any interest charges.


OK, sometimes you have to write a personal check (i.e. paying the babysitter, the small mom-and-pop shop that doesn't take credit cards, etc.). But, for the most part, you can use a credit card to pay for just about anything! Personal checks contain too much personal information, like your bank account number, home address, your signature, etc.

Also, some merchants want to see a drivers license to verify identity and the then write the license number on your check. Some of you with older licenses may have your SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER as your driver's license number! Federal laws since have outlawed states from putting your SSN on your drivers license, but if you have an older license that hasn't been renewed, your SSN may still be on it. Imagine what can happen if you have your name, signature, bank account number, and SSN all on your personal check...scary!

"So, how does this relate to mortgage insights," you may be thinking? Well, my friend who this almost happened to was in the middle of a mortgage transaction at the time. If her credit card issuer had approved those transactions, then her mortgage approval could have easily been jeopardized (higher debt-to-income ratios, lower credit scores from high credit card balances). She isn't sure how her credit card information was compromised, but she has since had the account closed and opened a new account. In the current mortgage credit market, guidelines and credit restrictions are the tightest they have been in years...a few points lower on your FICO or tri-merge credit score can damage or kill your mortgage approval quickly.

Some other things you can do to limit your exposure:

  • get a post office box and have ALL MAIL delivered there
  • get a locking mailbox
  • invest the measly $20 in a cross-cut or diamond cut paper shredder and shred all mail that is to be thrown out
  • send outgoing mail ONLY through the blue USPS mailboxes or drop off at your local post office
  • keep a watchful eye on any merchants that you hand your credit card and/or debit card to
Posted by Eric Leigh at 11/26/2007 3:58:00 PM

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