Mortgage Borrowers Beware: Is Your Private Information at Risk?

In an age where many are concerned that “private information” has lost its meaning, countless Americans are apprehensive of the NSA, hackers, and now even Facebook. However, how many of us stop to worry about our privacy when applying for a mortgage? Do we know every entity that our tax-returns are disclosed to? Do we question the security protocols of the IRS? Though it is not as widely discussed, the “tax transcript” program run by the IRS poses a potential privacy/identity theft threat to millions of borrowers each year. In a mortgage closing, it is required that borrowers complete a 4506-T form, which enables third-parties to obtain the borrowers’ tax records from the IRS. These requests often fall into the wrong hands. The IRS, when it receives these requests, does not always thoroughly vet these third-party requests. Thus, taxpayer information can easily fall into the hands of unqualified parties who can use the information for unscrupulous practices. Even more alarming, auditors discovered links between these borrowers’ tax transcript requests with identity theft and fraudulent tax refund requests. Unqualified parties can request tax transcripts and unlawfully use the garnered information for identity theft purposes.  Criminals can also use stolen taxpayer information to bypass IRS security measures and obtain fraudulent tax-refunds. Recently, the IRS has been updating verification methods to combat these security breaches.  Its efforts, however, have been to no avail. The IRS disburses thousands of individuals’ tax information to many requesters who do not even comply with new regulations. While the IRS recognizes the threats and is trying to combat the problem with multi-factor identification, there is still a great deal of improvement that needs to be made to the system to protect consumer privacy. While all this information may sound worrisome, all hope is not lost for borrowers. Remember to fill out the 4506-T form with care or have an attorney assist you with limiting the information that your bank and/or third-party requestors can obtain. Try not to leave blank answers and be as specific as possible. It may sound tedious, but always double-check every document you sign when it comes to your private information.