Privacy Protection In Todays Mortgage Climate

Most savvy consumers these days are taking steps to ensure their privacy and avoid unsolicited calls or a mailbox full of junk. There are laws in place that give us a bit of control when it comes to how our information is being used and by whom. The problem is these laws can only help if we know how to protect ourselves. Most understand that unless they "opt out" after a transaction, many companies will sell their information to other businesses.

Trigger Leads

One of the most alarming of these scenarios is what the three main credit bureaus are doing. When you apply for a home loan with a carefully chosen mortgage company, your credit will need to be checked to determine precisely what interest rate you will qualify for. Once your credit is pulled from one or more of the three credit bureaus; Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the bureaus know that you are in the market for a mortgage.

Without your permission, these bureaus are using the initial inquiry as a trigger, and are turning around and selling your detailed information to companies who are in direct competition with the mortgage company you chose to work with. These competitors pay for this privileged information and are willing to do whatever it takes to recoup that cost. Too often this includes underhanded and misleading tactics. It is not uncommon for a consumer to be contacted by a new mortgage company claiming to have been referred to them by the consumer's original broker. They may also employ "bait and switch" tactics to lure a customer in with an enticing offer which they may not really qualify for, and then switch them to another, often more costly product without notification.

The trigger lead trend has lessened somewhat in recent months as the mortgage sector has cooled. But it would be wrong to think that it's no longer a threat to consumer privacy. As loan requirements have become stricter, the call for viable mortgage leads has reached a crescendo. And that means homeowners with good credit scores are very likely to find their information being sold in the form of a trigger lead.

A few states, like Minnesota, have introduced strict legislation prohibiting credit bureaus from selling trigger leads. But most states are acting very slowly on the issue for a variety of reasons, and Federal action seems unlikely. The Federal Trade Commission claimed in March 2007 it lacks the legal authority to tackle unwanted trigger lead solicitations. So it is vital consumers empower themselves to combat this trend.

Protecting Yourself

There are things you can do to prevent yourself becoming just another trigger lead. Under Federal law, the consumer credit reporting industry is required to provide a way for consumers to "opt out" or remove their name from these lists. You can call (888) 567-8688 or go online to and opt out for 5-years or for life. If you choose the lifetime option, you will be required to complete and sign a form. They don't make it easy to opt out for life for obvious reasons, but it may be worth it to you.

In addition to protecting yourself from these mortgage shenanigans, opting out with the credit agencies will also protect you from pre-approved credit offers arriving by mail. These direct mail credit offers are a major annoyance for many homeowners and one of the main sources of identity theft in the US today! And don't forget the National Do Not Call List, which can help protect you from unsolicited telephone inquiries.

Shopping Around

Many consumers like the idea of "shopping around" for the best loan. And it's a good idea to make sure you're getting the best deal available. But such a strategy should be done on your own terms, and not at the whim of companies who disclose private information for their own profit.

If you're looking to compare multiple loan options that are tailored to your unique needs and want to be sure you're getting the best rate, companies like America's Lending Partners offer free consultation with in-house mortgage experts who, with your approval, will seek out and negotiate with lenders on your behalf. Unlike checking around with individual lenders who will each check your credit separately, such services can pull your credit report one time, shop around for you, and provide you with the comparisons you want without the need for numerous damaging inquires.

And when you start working with a broker or lender make sure you note down your contact's name and phone number, along with the name of their company. If someone suspicious calls up claiming to work for that company, or to have been referred to you by that company, call your contact back and double check it with them. Also, beware of new mortgage companies contacting you out of the blue and making you offers which seem too good to be true: often they are! As a rule of thumb, only work with the companies you contacted.


Whether you are looking to purchase a new home or refinance your existing home, make sure you protect your privacy. Before you begin the mortgage process, prepare by opting out of unsolicited offers, and arm yourself with the knowledge that you don't have to become another trigger lead. Even in a deflated mortgage market, you have significant control over who you work with to achieve your new mortgage.