Data Facts Blog


A HReal HRisk HR can help HReduce | BCP Business Center

By Lesley Fair

Data Privacy DayToday is Data Privacy Day. You’ve educated your staff about limiting access to sensitive information, locking up confidential paperwork, and securing the network. But Latanya Sweeney, the FTC’s new Chief Technologist, just clued us in about a potential security vulnerability you, your HR team, and your web master can do something right now to correct.

It can happen on any site, but it’s common for universities, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and even tech companies to include links to the CVs of professors, scientists, executives, and other staff. For the most part, those resumes list scholarly publications and academic interests. But scroll through all that high-minded content and you may get to the down-and-dirty stuff identity thieves live for: dates of birth, home addresses, and even Social Security numbers.

On this topic – and a whole lot of others – when Latanya Sweeney talks, we listen. And here’s why. Yes, Latanya is an Ivy League Big Brain Academic. (And we mean that in the nice way, of course.) But she also has the tech credentials to speak geek with the very best of ‘em. And if that weren’t enough, for years she’s been a leading thinker about how privacy and technology policy affects consumers.

Here are some steps you can take immediately to help plug the potential gap Latanya is warning about:

HR professionals: Survey the faculty or management pages of your site and have your web master take down any CVs or resumes that include the kind of personal information ID thieves could exploit. Explain to your colleagues why it’s a risk they shouldn’t be taking. As new staff members are hired, implement a policy not to upload documents that include sensitive data. Executives and staff will appreciate that you’re looking out for them – and for the reputation of your institution or business.

Academics and professionals: If the CV or resume posted on your employer’s site or your personal homepage includes your Social Security number, date of birth, or other personal information, take the page down. If it’s a link to a .pdf, revise the document to get rid of the data crooks could exploit. Pass the word to your colleagues, mention it in your next staff meeting, or print this page and post it where they’ll see it.

Job applicants, graduate students, and others with an interest in promoting their credentials online: Be savvy about what you include on your CV, resume, or webpage. There’s just no reason for posting your Social Security number or date of birth where it’s accessible to some random web surfer. And your home address? These days, isn’t it more likely legitimate employers would contact you via email?

Those steps can reduce your risk from here on in, but what can you do if your personal information is already out there? Go to annualcreditreport.com and exercise your right to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major national credit reporting companies. Stagger your requests and monitor your report once every four months.

A HReal HRisk HR can help HReduce | BCP Business Center.

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Partners Against Crime. Data Facts Helps You Combat Lending Fraud.

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The prevalence of mortgage fraud is still a scary fact.

According to the FBI, 13 billion dollars were lost in fraudulent mortgage loans in 2012. Over 60% of mortgage fraud includes ID discrepancies and in most cases the fraudster uses a mixture of accurate and “borrowed” information. These crooks operate this way hoping that lenders will not check every bit of information and the loan will be approved.

Luckily, there are reports available to mortgage lending companies to combat this issue, and offer some protection. This can help preserve the bottom line.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the CFPB are continuously working to stay a step ahead of these people. In order for them to stay ahead of the game, they are constantly changing regulations. That makes it difficult for lenders to keep track of these constantly changing regulations. They are requiring that lenders have a rather robust process for assessing the quality during the loan origination.

A member of the board of directors for the National Consumer Reporting Association (NCRA) and Executive Vice President of Data Facts Inc, Julie Wink, explains it. “Fraud is a big issue in the lending world, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Data Facts strives to offer our customers the solutions they need to close their mortgage loans. Our fraud products are an easy, cost effective way to minimize the risk of processing a fraudulent loan.

Tools from a third party vendor can help catch errors and/or identify intentionally fraudulent information. Lenders can utilize these reports to verify identity and other commonly misrepresented piece of information that lead to fraud. Lenders are able to compare loan application data to their origination, servicing, or other customer databases to identify issues such as multiple applications, occupancy concerns, or erroneous or fraudulent social security numbers. Data Facts offers “build your own” packages for customized reporting that flags suspicious reports and helps lenders stay in compliance.

Julie Wink sums it up: “Everyone in the mortgage industry must do their part to combat fraud. We are offering these products to assist our customers in reaching their goal of no fraudulent loans.

Click Here to download our eBook: Time is Money: Detect Lending Fraud Faster!

About Data Facts Inc

Since 1989, Data Facts has provided information you trust and rely on to make sound lending, hiring, and other business decisions. They have a reputation for providing premier lending solutions that include an Appraisal Platform, multiple Verifications Services, Flood Certifications, Fraud Solutions and Credit Reporting. These solutions ensure that lenders close more loans faster and easier than ever.

Data Facts has offices located throughout the United States and serves a wide variety of customers within the United States and Internationally. They are a 100% woman owned, diversified supplier and offer solutions that minimize risk and keep you in compliance.

Look Before You Leap on the Social Media Bandwagon

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As more and more people sign on to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the many other social media sites available, hiring professionals are becoming more tempted to take a peek at the information before hiring an applicant. Who can blame them? There is virtually a goldmine of potentially  valuable information to be gleaned from a person’s profile, blog, photograph, or collection of tweets.  Lending institutions could benefit greatly by knowing about a mortgage professional’s online presence up front.

However, this type of investigation is not without its risks.  There is a sea of controversy swirling around about utilizing social media to screen job candidates, and whether or not a company should do it.

According to a survey recently by Careerbuilder, 37% of companies use social media to screen their applicants, and 11% of companies plan to use it in the near future. Social media allows hiring managers to gain unprecedented access to information about the applicant.  They can discover negative aspects (vulgar language, bad grammar, illegal activities) and also positive information (charity work, good communication skills, awards received) with just a few clicks of a mouse.  Banks and mortgage companies in particular could benefit from this type of information. Someone who will not represent the lending institution in a professional manner online could be detrimental to the business’s reputation and public persona.  Just one faux pas by an employee can sometimes take a company years to recover!

However, there are drawbacks. A profile also may show information about a person’s race, age, religion, or disability; all of which are illegal to use in the hiring process. Once an employer sees this information, they cannot ‘unring the bell.’  Once you have it, there is no way to prove it had no bearing on the hiring process.   Employers that use social media sites to make employment-related decisions without taking the time to implement them into their current hiring policy processes could be violating employment and privacy laws.

While it’s not illegal to look at a candidate’s social media footprint, it’s advisable to consider several matters before you hop on the internet to check out a potential employee.

Here are 7 steps to follow if your company decides to utilize social media in its pre-employment screening process:

1. Develop a clear policy. When planning to utilize social media in your hiring process, one of the most important steps is to have a policy. Set in place the sites that will be screened, and the information you will be trying to find.  While positive and negative information may be uncovered about the candidate, the best practice is to look for relevant information related to their work. While you don’t really need to be privy to someone’s partying habits or the fact that they kissed a boy in the streets of New Orleans, you would need to know about unsavory behaviors like racial slurs, threats of violence, or misleading information about their work history or education background.

2. Get the applicant’s consent.  It’s considered best practice to follow the same notice and disclosure policies as you normally would with any pre-employment screen.  Advise the applicant that part of your company’s screening process entails checking their social media footprint, and gain their consent to do so.

3. Remember that consistency is the key.  One of an employer’s most important defenses in a lawsuit is consistency within company policies.  Social media screening policies should be written in black and white, and should specifically outline the sites screened and the information being sought. This policy needs to be applied to EVERY candidate.  You can get yourself into trouble by using a ‘go with your gut’ strategy and screening only those people you feel may be hiding something.  If the policy states you do not screen Twitter tweets because you feel they have no relevant information about job performance, don’t suddenly look at it if the candidate looks sneaky or has too many piercings.

4.  Use a third party to perform the search.  If the person conducting the hiring performs the social media search themselves, it is a given that they will eventually see information they should not use in the hiring process. Examples of this are a person’s age, race, religion, health condition, etc. Using a third party, independent researcher to perform the search will greatly reduce this risk.  The researcher (which can be someone from outside the hiring department but still within the company OR a third party background screening company) should work from a list the hiring manager has pre-defined that they want to discover about the candidate.  Upon completion, the researcher can return his findings, while omitting any information that is illegal to use in a hiring decision.  This practice will ensure that the person or people making the hiring decision do not have access to protected information.

5. Do not friend the applicant or ask them for their passwords! Both actions are big No No’s and can bring on all kinds of trouble.  When utilizing social media for screening purposes, view only public information. Do not ‘friend’ or ‘connect’ with the applicant so you can see additional, private information. And never ask the applicant for the passwords to their social media accounts. Most social media sites have privacy sections in their agreements for service that ban a user from sharing his login information. Additionally, several states have even gone so far as to already pass legislation banning companies from asking for individual’s passwords. This needs to be viewed as a big invasion of privacy and avoided at all costs.

6. Have a clear, understandable reason if you reject the applicant.  If a social media search returns information that causes you to reject an applicant, an employer needs to be able to point to legitimate hiring requirements as a reason to not hire a person (such as evidence the person has badmouthed their current employer, participated in illegal activities, used bad judgment, lied about their background, etc).

7. Give the applicant a chance to explain. If a piece of information is found on social media that would weigh against the applicant’s chances of being hired, do not write them off immediately. Showing the applicant what was found on social media, telling them why it’s a concern, and giving them a chance to explain is an important part of the screening policy. Perhaps the negative information was inaccurate or misleading. There is also a chance it was a different person of the same name. The applicant deserves the chance to refute the information.

It is highly recommended and advisable for any lending institution to implement these steps into their pre-employment screening policy BEFORE they begin utilizing social media to screen applicants.

And remember, while social media sites can offer up lots of valuable information on a potential job candidate and his fit within the company, this should not be the only background screening tool utilized in the hiring decision. In order to make a sound hiring decision, social media screening should be used thoughtfully in conjunctions with the traditional methods of screening.

Using social media sites to screen job candidates is not risk-free, especially since there has yet to be many clear laws or court cases defining this area. When implemented into an employer’s current policy and with guidelines intelligently drawn, social media screening can supply a better, all-round understanding of the job candidate.

Susan McCullah

Product Development Director

Data Facts, Inc. has been providing you the Information You Trust since 1989. Susan is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services. Susan can be contacted at info@datafacts.com or http://www.datafacts.com.

DATA FACTS, Inc. to Attend the MBA’s 100th Annual Convention and Expo

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Data Facts will be introducing a full suite of products that will help streamline the lending process and keep Lenders in compliance. In today’s financial climate, it is becoming more evident by utilizing bundled services from a single provider Lenders will be able to serve clients more effectively, profitably and will emerge as industry leaders.

Data Facts’ President & CEO, Daphne Large, serves as the 2013 NCRA President, and Julie Wink, Data Facts’ Executive Vice President, serves as the Co-Chair of the Education and Compliance Committee. Data Facts has worked closely with the NCRA for many years, and the NCRA is delighted to have both Large and Wink in such influential positions in 2013. This past June, both Daphne and Julie attended the NCRA Lobby Day in Washington DC. While there, they spoke to various government agencies and public officials, lobbying for better regulations that impact our industry.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is the national association representing the entire real estate finance industry. The MBA is an influential voice for real estate finance, leading the charge to create a sustainable and vibrant future for all industry participants. The National Mortgage Banker’s Association provides mortgage companies and banks information that is both timely and critical. This year’s conference will celebrate the Association’s 100th year anniversary.

Daphne Large, Data Facts’ CEO, is proud to be a part of the conference. “We have always supported the local MBA’s and are thrilled to be exhibiting at the national level. We believe the MBA serves the industry well, and know we will have a positive experience both in exhibiting at the conference and attending the informative sessions that are planned. Our customers count on us to be well informed, and the conference will expand our knowledge of the hot topics in the industry.”

About Data Facts Inc

Since 1989, Data Facts has provided information you trust and rely on to make sound business decisions. Data Facts has offices across the United States and provides crucial information for a broad variety of business needs, such as background screening for employment, tenant screening for residential firms, and up-to-date financial background data for mortgage companies. Our top of the line technology delivers information quickly, accurately and securely. For more information about Data Facts visit  http://www.datafacts.com. Follow us on Twitter @DFlending or @DFscreening. ‘Like’ us on Facebook at “Data Facts Lending Solutions” and “Data Facts Background Screening.”

~~Stacie Shelton is a member of the Marketing Team at Data Facts, Inc. Since 1989, Data Facts has provided information you trust and rely on to make sound business decisions. Our CEO, Daphne Large is the 2013 NCRA President and our EVP, Julie Wink is the Co-Chair NCRA Education and Compliance Committee. We provide information for a broad variety of business needs, such as background screening for employment, tenant screening for residential firms, and up-to-date financial background data for mortgage companies. Our top of the line technology delivers information quickly, accurately and securely. For more information about Data Facts visit www.datafacts.com. Follow us on Twitter @dflending and Facebook at “Data Facts Lending Solutions.

7 WAYS TO CLOSE LOANS FASTER AND STAY IN COMPLIANCE

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In today’s financial climate, it is becoming more evident by utilizing bundled services from a single provider Lenders will be able to serve clients more effectively, profitably and will emerge as industry leaders.

Why should you bundle services? First of all, one vendor equals fewer headaches. It standardizes operations and saves time. You don’t have to call, email and wait for responses from multiple vendors. Secondly, it builds a stronger relationship. This makes for a more positive overall experience. Lastly, it helps you to stay in compliance. Compliance is ALWAYS a top priority. Bundling services minimizes the risk of being out of compliance by having all your paperwork from ONE source. Your chosen vendor should be constantly providing compliance information for your records.

Credit

Buying a home can be one of the most stressful adventures a consumer can embark upon. From choosing the home, negotiating the price, obtaining a mortgage loan, to securing ownership, there are many pitfalls that can derail the plan.

Consumers often mistakenly believe that it is clean sailing after the mortgage loan process has been started. If the credit score it good, they are good to go, right. Wrong. Credit Education can help streamline the loan process. The more that the consumer knows on the front end, the easier the process will be.

When looking for a Credit Reporting Agency (CRA), there are a few things that you need to know. The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the operation of consumer reporting agencies, and also affects you as a user of information. It regulates how a consumer’s information may be used, and restricts who has access to this sensitive information. In order to be in compliance, one needs to have a thorough understanding of the FCRA.

Know your state laws. Certain states have passed restrictions in addition to the FCRA. Make sure to be familiar with any additional laws in your state, and follow these rules carefully to maintain full FCRA compliance.

Debt Monitoring

There are negative actions that can be taken even after the mortgage loan has been applied for that can decrease or annihilate the chances of getting that loan closed. The Fannie Mae LQI initiative is meant to keep the amount of loan buy-back low by verifying the quality of a purchaser before it closes. Debt Monitoring allows loan officers to monitor their borrowers during the “Quiet” period between when the loan application is made and when it closes. The borrower is monitored on a daily basis and if there is a change in their credit history, the loan officer is notified within 24 hours.

Accessing the tradeline changes by pulling a soft pull credit report is another method of satisfying the Fannie Mae LQI initiative. Soft pulls – as they are known in the industry because they do not have an impact on a person’s credit score – instantly accesses any credit history changes between origination and closing.

Automated Appraisal Platforms

Don’t risk the stiff penalties that are being imposed for non-compliance. Automated appraisal ordering platforms are a great way to maintain compliance for UCDP and the Dodd-Frank Act. Look for a vendor that allows you to use your own appraisal vendors and allows you to maintain control of the process. The best product will be one that maintains appraiser rotation with total transparency, logs all communication between the lender and appraiser, and allows the appraisal to be uploaded straight to the UCDP. A certificate of compliance or some other form of written documentation should be provided with every appraisal that is generated through the system.

Look for an automated appraisal platform that lets you choose if you want to override service areas for all of the appraisers in your panel, or only certain appraisers. You have the option to have a “mixed” panel: a panel where you have specified service areas for certain appraisers, but kept the appraiser-entered service areas for others.

When you have controlled the service areas and qualifications of appraisers in your panel, the areas that you have entered will override the appraiser’s settings in the appraiser profile. This will give you more control over your order processes to make sure the appraiser with the right expertise gets the order.

Fraud Prevention

Regulators and secondary market investors are requiring originators to validate more of the borrower and property data using independent third-party sources to help combat this trend. With the changing regulations loan officers must be constantly aware of growing fraud trends.

Approximately 60% of mortgage fraud includes ID discrepancies. It is a good idea to implement an automated investigation of the borrower’s identity into your best practices. Utilize a system that instantly searches millions of databases and validates the person’s name is actually connected to the social security number, address, phone number, date of birth, etc. This will allow a lender to easily catch and circumvent high-risk identity mortgage fraud in close to 9 out of 10 instances.

Verification Services

Tax Return Verifications are a great way to combat income fraud. Look for an easy to order platform, from which you can order directly. Your vendor should review the documents before submitting to ensure that the IRS does not reject the order. The IRS will still charge you a processing fee, even if they reject the order.

Social Security verifications prove that the person across the desk from you really is who they say that they are.  Easy to read reports add that extra layer of protection to make sure that you have covered all your bases.

Mortgage Verifications will verify mortgage payments, payment history and the name of the creditor. Employment verification checks dates of employment, salary and the position held. Verification of deposit will verify funds in a checking or savings account and the current balance.

Flood Certifications

Over the last several years FEMA has made over 83,000 flood map panel changes affecting 92% of the US population. This means millions of properties may have a flood status change. According to the FDIC Annual report for 2011, 80% of the fines issued by the FDIC in 2011 were flood related. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act passed in June 29, 2012 included an increase for penalties against lenders from $350 to $2,000 for each flood violation and eliminated the annual cap on flood violation fines. Ease your compliance worries by signing up with a vendor that has the dedicated staff and funds.

Make sure that your vendor is partnered with a reputable flood certification vendor. Flood Certification has improved greatly with regards to technology. Vendors no longer are pulling actual maps to locate specific properties. Everything has been digitized, so information can be gained within seconds. 95% of flood certifications can come back within just a few seconds. Your flood certification portfolio should have the latest flood data throughout the entire life of the loan and will also make sure you receive any revised flood certifications within 60 days of the new maps becoming effective so you can take the appropriate next steps as quickly as possible.

With new regulations being implemented daily, there are more requirements than ever to get a loan approved. Bundled services are the way of the future. They reduce turnaround time, improve productivity, improve the bottom line and keep you in compliance. By utilizing bundled services from a single provider, Lenders can set themselves apart in a highly competitive market.

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Johnna Leeds

Vice President of Compliance

Data Facts, Inc. has been providing you the Information You Trust since 1989. Johnna Leeds is the Vice President of Compliance. She has been with Data Facts since 1996. She is a member of NAPBS, and currently serves on the NAPBS Best Practices Group, Litigation Avoidance, Criminal Records Reporting Practices and Breach Prevention committees. Johnna can be contacted at http://www.datafacts.com.

Social Security Numbers and Mortgage Fraud

The social security card looks like an innocent little thing. However, its 9 digit number packs a powerful wallop during the mortgage process.  People who commit mortgage fraud often attempt to utilize other people’s socials to acquire mortgage loans.

According to Fannie Mae’s Fraud Finding Statistics , for the 2011 and 2012 mortgages where misrepresentations were discovered,   8% of the misrepresentations involved social security numbers. This, unfortunately, is an increase from 2010.

Mortgage fraud is a rampant practice in today’s real estate climate, with fake or stolen social security numbers often at the heart of the scams. Fraudsters have several ways of gaining access to a person’s social:

1: Purse or wallet snatching: a thief may utilize this very common practice to gain access to a consumer’s private information.

2: Phone scams: fraudsters call a person with a phony story. Examples of this are scammers telling the person he/she has won a great amount of money, or posing as the person’s bank or credit card companies. In these cases, thieves ask for identity verification in the form of a social security number.

3: Computer hacking: websites where private information is stored may be hacked in order to retrieve social security numbers.

Once fraudsters have secured a valid social security number, they can utilize it to open credit cards, get hired for jobs, AND obtain a mortgage.

Criminals who set their sites on mortgage fraud often set up complex networks and intricate scams to commit mortgage fraud. One person will steal the social security number, while another fraudulent person applies for the mortgage. A group working this way can rack up tens of thousands of dollars in cash without the consumer’s knowledge.

How can consumers protect themselves?

–          Leave it at home. Never carry your social security card in a purse or wallet. This practice will eliminate the possibility of a thief stealing it in a purse or wallet snatching incident.

–          Guard the number closely. Only give out the number on a call that you initiated.  Beware of anyone calling or emailing you asking for your social security number.

–          Report a theft immediately.  If you feel your social security number has been compromised, report it to the FTC, the 3 credit bureaus, and the Social Security Administration immediately. Doing damage control up front will save you big headaches down the road.

How can mortgage lenders protect themselves?

–          Closely check the credit report. Scour it thoroughly for any discrepancies in the applicant’s social security number.

–          Run a social security verification on every borrower. For added protection, this process makes certain the social matches the person trying to obtain the mortgage.

It’s a sad fact of life there are criminals out there who prey on honest people by fraudulently acquiring their social security number. However, by being vigilant (whether you are a consumer or a mortgage lender), these criminals can be thwarted and the incidences of mortgage fraud can be decreased.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Identity Theft: The Newest Open Door to Thieves

ID theft continues to be a rampant and expensive crime in the U.S.  Purse-snatching, dumpster diving, and mail stealing are all ways that criminals steal your identity. These thieves can then use your credit cards, social security number, and other personal information to rack up charges, open new accounts, and even apply for jobs!

Identity theft and ways to combat it have been topics of many tv and printed articles. You have probably viewed or read some of these tips and even implemented a few of them into your habits. So you are protected, right?

Uh, probably not.

Unfortunately, these crooks are very creative, and constantly scheming up new ways to steal pieces of information about your identity. So, while you may have a locking mailbox, a shredder you use faithfully, and guard your social security number as closely as you would your little sister, you could be overlooking one thing: your cell phone.

In today’s “smart phone world” a person can manage their entire lives. Paying bills, banking, stock trading, and online shopping can all be conducted over your nifty little phone. This makes your phone a goldmine to identity thieves.

Ways the thieves can steal it:

 They steal your phone. Cell phones are evolving constantly, and the amount of storage available on them is growing by leaps and bounds. By stealing your phone, criminals can access your credit card numbers, banking applications, and email accounts. This can supply them with a plethora of information that they can use to steal your identity.

They tap into your Bluetooth connection: Thieves can access your Bluetooth connection, and connect their device with yours, pilfering pieces of information that are not secure on your cell phone.

They can eavesdrop on you. A crook with access to your phone can download software that allows them to listen to your phone conversations. From there, they can extract any information you talk about on your cell phone, and use this to gain access to your accounts, credit cards, etc.

They buy it from you: There are unscrupulous people cruising the internet for used cell phones on sites like Craigslist and Ebay. Their goal is to buy a cell phone that has not been completely cleared of important, sensitive information that they can use to steal your identity.

When it comes to Identity Theft, ignorance is definitely NOT bliss.  Being aware of these sneaky ways to steal your identity can put you in a better position to protect yourself. Here are some ways to make sure you are not vulnerable.

1: Lock down your cell phone with a strong password. Utilizing a number/letter password is the first step toward securing your phone from intruders. Make sure the password is not easily guessable, and set your phone to auto lock.

2: Don’t auto-save your banking passwords. Any applications that deal with sensitive information need to also have a strong password, and take the few extra seconds to type it in every time you access the app.

3: Always turn your Bluetooth off if you are not using it. This can greatly minimize an identity thieves’ ability to hack your phone.

4: Don’t leave it laying around. Keep your cell phone with you when you are out and about, and out of sight at work. This will guard against a person being able to download software that can tap into your conversations and emails.

5. Erase it before selling. When it’s time to get rid of your old phone, make certain all sensitive information is completely removed from the device.

Identity theft is largely a crime of opportunity. By decreasing your cell phone’s exposure to criminals’ access, you can effectively guard against becoming another statistic.

 

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Social Security Numbers; Times are A Changin’

Posted in Identity Theft,Uncategorized by datafactssolutions on September 12, 2011
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Social security numbers began being assigned in 1936 to track workers’ earnings so that proper benefits could be paid. These 9 digit numbers were created from a specific formula. This year, that formula is changing.
Social security numbers have always been comprised of 3 number sections; the 3 digit area number, followed by the 2 digit group number, and then a 4 digit serial number. The area number reflects the state in which the card was issued.
This sequence creation has begun to pose some problems.
1: Because the first 3 numbers indicate the state the number was issued (look at this chart to see the numbers by state), this limits the numbers of each state. Highly populated states may eventually run out of 9 digit numbers.
2: The SSN has been widely used for identification purposes for schools, businesses, etc. The current design allows identity thieves more of an opportunity to figure out a person’s number, and use it for fraudulent activities.
As a result, the Social Security Administration has decided to change the way SSN’s are assigned.
As of June 25, 2011, Social Security Numbers will be randomized.

The key differences will be;
The geographical significance of the first 3 numbers will be eliminated. The ‘area numbers’ will no longer be allocated from a specific state. This will extend the longevity of the 9 digit number system.
Previously unassigned area numbers will be introduced. Prior to June 25, 2011, social security numbers would have never included an area number above 772. Now the Social Security Administration allows for area numbers all the way into the 800’s. However, there are some area numbers that will never be allocated; 000, 666, and 900-999.
Never fear! You are not going to be reassigned a social security number or anything like that, this is simply for the people who receive Social Security numbers after June 25, 2011. AND the 9 digit design will remain in place.
Always remember: your social security number is a goldmine for identity thieves. Do not divulge your social security number unless absolutely necessary, and never carry your card in your wallet.

Why a Strong Password is Your Best Friend

Your best friend would always protect you and never let you down. The same should be said of your passwords.
In today’s world, the average person needs 28 passwords. You need passwords for your bank, email, social network, bills, and any online ordering accounts. THEN you really rack up the passwords for different logins at work. It can get mind boggling to remember all the passwords that you use in a day’s time.
It’s tempting to use the same password for all the sites and accounts that you must access. HOWEVER, this is setting you up to have your password STOLEN. And the consequences of having your only password hacked can be disastrous.
Think about just how much a password protects.
Online banking and brokerage accounts: your password stands between your money and a thief!
Email accounts: your password protects your emails from being hacked. If you have online bills and bank statement, the thief could gain access to your account information.
Online shopping: Your credit card number and other personal information are guarded by your password.
And these are only your Personal Accounts!
Here are some very important tips to utilize in the creation of your passwords.
1. Throw your password loyalty out the window: Studies show that 1/3 of Americans who use a computer use the same password for every site. If a thief gets your password and hacks into your email, he can then access any accounts that he finds. He could literally clean you out and rack up massive debt within a very short period of time. Using only 1 password for all of your accounts hands the thief an open invitation to all of your accounts and information.
2. Easier isn’t better. A good portion of people actually use their birth date, their kids’ names, or even 12345 as their passwords. These types of passwords take hackers only seconds to crack. Easy passwords leave your accounts open and waiting for thieves to take advantage. You may as well leave your money laying on the front porch.
3. Keep it in the noggin. Even if people have more than one password, they often write them down and leave them by the computer, under their keyboard, in their calendar, or store them in their smartphones. This basically gift wraps them for a thief. Once he scores the password list, its bye bye money and hello fraudulent charges.
4. Mix it up. Passwords that only contain letters are easy to observe or guess, especially if they are only lower case.
5. Get long-winded. Never use a password that is under 8 characters. A short password is more easily observed and guessed than a longer one.
6. Remember you didn’t marry it. Keeping the same password month after month allows a hacker all the time he needs to crack it.
The CONSEQUENCES of having your password hacked are too high to not take immediate action. Here’s what to do:
1: Make a list of all your emails, accounts, banks, and shopping websites that require you to have a password.
2: Make sure your main email address has a password different from any other account.
3: For the remainder of your accounts, have a minimum of 4  hard to crack but easy for you to remember passwords
4: Change your passwords every 3 months.
5. Don’t write the passwords down anywhere. If you are afraid you will forget them, scribble a hint that only you could decipher, and keep it in a safe place. (Do not store this in your wallet or near your computer).
Let’s create a good password.
A. Think of a word that is easy for you to remember, but is not closely tied to you personally (ie: not your spouse, child, or dog’s name). We will use Teague (the name of my Kindergarten teacher)
B. Add a capital letter in the middle of the word. We will use the G. So now we have TeaGue.
C. Randomly choose 3 numbers. Do NOT use the last 4 digits of your social, your birthdate, or your anniversary. We will use 206 (the date of the last Superbowl). Your weight is another easy to remember number.
D. Now choose a character. I will choose ! since I’m trying to make a point.
RESULT: one of my new passwords is TeaGue!206. This will be easy for me to remember, but difficult to guess. My hint to myself would be: Kindergarden!superbowl.

Passwords are the gateway to your money, credit cards, and personal information. Strong passwords, like best friends, keep your secrets secure.  Utilize these tips to make sure you will not become just another identity theft statistic.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product solutions to lenders nationwide.