Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft and Loss of Confidentiality at Showings and Open Houses

Jeff Dowler's picture
Identity Theft While Showing a House

Identity theft is rampant these days, and it’s getting harder and harder to protect ourselves. Home showings and open houses could be one way your confidentiality and identity could be threatened. But some common sense will help reduce that likelihood.

A primary focus of the open house is to present your home in its very best condition for those guests and agents who stop in, and it's an easy way for many interested parties to see your home in a short period of time. But another important consideration is protecting yourself against theft of small items, and potential identity theft by leaving around confidential items for prying eyes.

Here’s a checklist of items to not leave lying around, for your open house or showings in general. These will ensure your home looks its best and help avoid theft and loss of confidentiality:

  • Dirty dishes
  • Dirty laundry
  • Pets, kitty litter boxes, dog doo in the yard
  • iPads, tablets, iPhones, smartphones, laptop computers
  • Jewelry and watches, whether valuable or not
  • Money (bills and coins)
  • Check books or canceled checks
  • Account numbers; user names and passwords
  • Bank and credit card statements, tax documents, letters from the IRS
  • Attorney communications; collection agency forms
  • Mortgage documents/coupons or letters from your mortgage company
  • Passports, social security card, birth certificates, and related identification
  • Small collectibles, whether valuable or not
  • Any documents related to the listing contract or communications between you and your listing agent, including copies of any offers you may have already received
  • Any documents relating to a home you are purchasing, have purchased or have under contract, or any rental information
  • Medications, especially prescriptions
  • Computers on, whether logged onto a website/email or not

Comments

Submitted by nccoup7 (not verified) on
I understand that when buying a house at some point a personal information must be shared. At what point do I give my social security number? What if I give it and the transaction doesn't happen. How am I ensure that's my identity is in safe hands? Thank you Jeff.

That's a tough question but there rarely are many people who actually need your SS# and even then it's not likely until you are well into the transaction (that will vary from state to state depending on whether there is an escrow or title company, an attorney, etc). I would specifically ask the person requesting this how they will safeguard all your information, including your SS#. A lender, for example, may shred certain confidential items, like bank statements, when they are no longer needed. You will not have a choice about giving this info to a lender since it is part of verifying your identity.

You never know whose looking around at an Open House. Putting away valuables, prescription drugs and more is a good idea, and Realtors should be suggesting this to all their sellers!

Submitted by nccoup7 (not verified) on
Good point Sheila. You never know who is looking to show up during and open house and for what purpose. I agree that real estate agents should share these types of important tips with home sellers and buyers too.

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