Safety Tips for Online Home Shopping

January 9, 2014

Today’s consumers are all too familiar with how easy identity theft has become. Credit card information, PIN numbers and account passwords get stolen every day. Prospective home buyers need to be especially mindful of how and where they make their intentions known. For starters, perusing online real estate listings can alert unscrupulous hackers to the fact that you may have a down payment in “X” number of dollars saved up. From that point on, they may try to relieve you of your “Home Sweet Home” nest egg! 

There are numerous ways to protect yourself when shopping for a home online. Here are a few tips: 

Keep your pc’s security program updated.

Computer safety consultant, Linda Criddle, of Seattle-based LookBothWays, warns consumers that cyber criminals can access an online account that lacks proper security software in less than four minutes. Computer experts agree that without an updated fortification of anti-virus, anti-phishing, and a solid firewall on every device with Internet capabilities, consumers put themselves at risk. Homebuyers submitting any financial information need to be especially diligent because savvy hackers continuously update their methods until they find a security breach. 

Make updates to the browser and operating system.

When ever the opportunity pops up to update browsers and operating systems, take the time to install them. Often, the reason new versions become available is because the previous ones developed weaknesses or proved to be susceptible to the latest viruses. Identity theft consultant, Robert Siciliano of Boston sees it this way, 

“It’s just like your body, you need to have a strong immune system to be resistant to viruses.” 

Know the difference between safe and unsafe.

Using a public Wi-Fi connection to examine sensitive financial or other personal information is a big no-no. Secure sites will have addresses with the “https” prefix-not, “http”. Criddle explained to that mobile networks are deemed safe, and that, “from a security standpoint, you’re better off using your smart phone than a laptop or tablet.” 

When in doubt, don’t.

Before unloading all of your pertinent personal information to obtain a mortgage quote – think. Use your best judgement. Does the site look legitimate and professional, or does it look like something somebody made it in a hurry with old, outdated software? Do you see the Google Trusted Store checkmark symbol, or the Norton Secured checkmark symbol? If not, be cautious.

Keep your private details private.

When using an online mortgage lender that you have thoroughly checked out, err on the side of caution. Instead of e-mailing your life story, make a telephone call instead. Supplying a lender via phone call with pertinent data, such as your credit score and Social Security number, is likely a safer approach. 

Verify reviews and references.

Double check the facts when it comes to proving what you’re reading is true. Make a few phone calls to agencies such as the Better Business Bureau, the local Mortgage Bankers Association, and the firm’s home state office of the Attorney General. If things are not on the up and up, chances are, all or at least one such agency has gotten wind of it. Taking the time to confirm a lender’s reputation provides peace of mind and as Criddle explains, “Once you have a reputable company to work with, you can sign up for email alerts for properties and feel more comfortable clicking on links.” 

Put your credit on ice.

Syndicated talk show host and financial wizard, Clark Howard, says that placing a credit freeze on your accounts is one of the most effective tools against identity theft. Howard explains that, “Until you’re ready to apply for a mortgage, you can freeze your credit, which stops any new credit from being opened. Even if someone gets information such as your bank account number or your Social Security number, they won’t be able to open any new credit with it.” Of course a prospective homebuyer will have to thaw their credit out when they are ready to apply for a mortgage. 

It pays to keep all of these tips in mind, especially considering that according to the article, last year, 90 percent of homebuyers searched for homes online. Crafty scammers can set up legitimate looking sites that seemingly feature all of the bells and whistles of reputable online firms. Security pros advise future house hunters to used tried and true sites for their property searches, such as Trulia, Zillow, and

Research Source: MSN Real Estate

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