Terry Wyatt called his mortgage broker one day about refinancing and within hours began getting calls from other brokers and lenders.
Terry Wyatt called his mortgage broker one day about refinancing — and within hours began getting calls from other brokers and lenders he’s never heard of.
“I’m getting calls pretty much all day long. It just doesn’t stop. It goes into the evening,” says the Elkridge, Md., resident, who has been dodging calls for the past two weeks.
So how did brokers and lenders as far away as New York and Florida know that Wyatt wants to refinance?
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When a lender or broker checks someone’s credit report, it signals that person is in the market for a mortgage or to refinance.
The credit bureaus then sell that contact information to others in the mortgage business. The use of these so-called “trigger leads” has heated up as the demand for mortgages and refinancing has cooled.
Consumers don’t like it. Lenders and brokers don’t necessarily like it either; some complain that the credit bureaus are helping competitors poach their clients. Privacy and consumer advocates worry that predatory players are using the leads to fish for prospects to push into high-priced loans.
“I don’t understand why the FTC isn’t even investigating this,” says Evan Hendricks, editor of the Privacy Times newsletter.
The reason, says the Federal Trade Commission, is that the practice is legal. Trigger leads are permitted under the same law that allows you to get preapproved credit-card offers.
The idea is that consumers will receive a variety of mortgage offers to compare before making one of the largest purchases in their lives, says Rebecca Kuehn, assistant director of the FTC’s privacy and identity protection division.
Mortgage lenders and brokers buying trigger leads don’t get your Social Security number. But they can tell the credit bureaus what sort of leads they want. For instance, a lender might request information on mortgage applicants in Maryland with a credit score of at least 650.
Consumers who don’t want to hear about these offers can always stop them the same way they opt out of credit-card offers and telemarketing calls, the FTC says.
All three major credit-reporting agencies sell trigger leads. Consumers benefit, says Stuart Pratt, president of the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group.
A consumer might go to a broker who deals only with subprime lenders, Pratt says. But because of trigger leads, that consumer might hear from other lenders and find out that she qualifies for a much better rate.
You can opt out of credit offers by calling 888-567-8688 or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. You’ll need to supply identification, including your Social Security number.
Also, add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry by calling 888-382-1222 or going online at www.donotcall.gov. The registry is supposed to keep most telemarketers at bay. You still might get letters about mortgage deals.