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Protecting Borrower Information
By Barbara Pronin
Busy real estate agents and brokers routinely collect financial data and other sensitive information and documentation from their clients. But it’s important to remember that if such information gets into the hands of identify thieves, they can drain bank accounts, open sham credit accounts, or go on colossal shopping sprees at the expense of your innocent clients.
         
What comprises sensitive information, and what must we do to protect it against misuse?
         
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is any information that can be used to identify, contact, or locate an individual, either by itself or in combination with other easily accessible data. PII may include financial, tax, and employment documentation, as well as phone numbers, email addresses and Social Security numbers – exactly the type of information routinely collected in the course of conducting real estate transactions.
         
Responsible agents typically don’t leave such data lying around on their desks or on the back seats of their cars – and trustworthy brokerages have extensive PII security protocols in place, including encryption, strong passwords, and increasingly paperless transactions.
 
For the conscientious agent, a sound information security plan should include a few key practices:
  • Take stock – know what information you have in your paper files and in your computer, how it moves through your business cycle, and who has access to it.
  • Scale down – Keep only what you need and shred what you no longer need. As your transaction moves toward closing, you may not need to hang onto some of the sensitive information you needed to have early on.
  • Lock it up – Be aware of and comply with all of your company’s physical and electronic security measures.
  • Pitch it properly – Make sure any papers containing sensitive client information are shredded so they cannot be reconstructed. For computer files, use software that can wipe information from the hard drive and prevent restoration.
  • Plan ahead – Because there is no guarantee you won’t ever be hacked, be aware of your company’s post-breach procedures. 
You might also consider purchasing a cyber-liability insurance policy, which may help cover the cost of recovering from a data breach.

Additionally, as your title partner, we are committed to supporting your needs and protecting your clients’ PII with stringent information security processes of our own, to help prevent theft and misuse of sensitive information.

Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.
 
This material is not intended to be relied upon as a statement of the law, and is not to be construed as legal, tax or investment advice.  You are encouraged to consult your legal, tax or investment professional for specific advice.  The material is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only.  Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, no representation is made as to its accuracy. 

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