"Trigger Lists" Spur Privacy Worries

Borrowers, phone calls
CBS/The Early Show
If you have a mortgage, or have applied for one, beware: Your personal and financial information could now be in the hands of hundreds of strangers.

The growing trend is taking many homeowners and buyers by surprise, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

Mike and Beth Hayden told him they felt it firsthand when they applied to one mortgage company for money to build their 4,500-square-foot dream house in Orlando, Fla.

Suddenly, they began getting calls from many other lenders seeking their business. The unsolicited solicitations seemed to come in non-stop, from early morning to late at night.

The callers, Strassmann says, were relentless, with offers that sounded too good to be true.

Some told out-and-out lies, Beth Hayden says. The calls came even though the Haydens were on a "do not call" list and have a private phone number. The Haydens considered the calls nothing short of harassment. And they worry about identity theft, since their information is "out there."

And what happened to them, Strassmann stresses, could easily happen to anyone holding or seeking a mortgage. It's the result of what's referred to as a "trigger list."

After a mortgage company checks credit, he explained, the credit bureau sells their personal financial information to other lenders hungry for their mortgage business. And overnight, your phone starts ringing.

But trigger lists are legal, regulated by the Consumer Data and Industry Association, "Some of them are going to have sales. Some won't. Some will have better offers, some won't. I get to make the best choice, and this is all about consumer choice at the end of the day."

Credit bureaus insist they sell the lists only to credentialed lenders, but critics say the practice is dangerous.

"The real problem with this," contends National Association of Mortgage Brokers president Harry Dinham, "is that it's really open-ended. They are just selling it to anybody. They aren't vetting who they are selling to."



If you get those calls and want them to stop, here's what to do:

Go to OptOutPrescreen.com, which enables you to stop anyone from offering you credit. Or call 888-567-8688.

If you don't want to go that far, experts advise, at least make sure anyone who solicits you on the phone is a legitimate lender.

And don't give any personal or financial information to anyone you're not sure of.


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