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Nothing is more stressful than shopping for a mortgage and realizing your credit
score isn’t what you expected. Worse still is finding that your identity has been
stolen and there are fraudulent accounts or activity on your report. Recovering
from identity theft can be time-consuming – you might lose your dream home if
the seller cannot wait for you to resolve the issue.

Before this happens to you, there are steps you can take to protect your Social
Security number and your credit.

• Guard Your Social Security Number – First, you should memorize your
Social Security number – never keep the card in your wallet. Second,
consider whether giving your SSN to someone is really mandatory; many
forms request this information, but ask questions before providing to see if
it’s actually required.

• Freeze Your Credit – This little-known trick can prevent anyone from
applying for credit in your name; including you. Contact the reporting
bureaus to prevent your credit report from being used for any purpose.
Unfreeze when you need it.

• Get ID Theft Protection – Consider using an ID theft protection company to
monitor your credit.

• Be Careful Online – Avoid public interest hot spots and other unsecured
networks when buying or banking online. Install a firewall and consider a
private virtual network system. Do not open any unknown emails or links.

Don’t take your identification lightly. Your credit is important to most aspects of
your financial life, but especially so when obtaining a home loan. A small change
in credit score can cost thousands of dollars in additional fees and interest; it can
even cost you the home if your ID has been stolen while you work to restore your
credit. Take some simple steps ahead of time to ensure you’re protected.