Your private information is never more vulnerable than when you are applying for a mortgage. It is inevitable that you will have to provide someone with the keys to your entire life. This includes paystubs, W-2’s, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and of course your social security number. It is also very possible that you are giving this information to a complete stranger. So how do you know who you can trust? Here are some things to consider:
1. Check to see if your loan officer is licensed to originate mortgage loans in your state. You can start by checking the NMLS (National Mortgage Licensing System ) consumer access site @ http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.com/ . In order to be listed on the NMLS , a loan officer must undergo a full background and credit check. If your loan officer is listed here, they have passed the background check. Not all states are currently listed on the NMLS, so confirm that your state is currently a participating state before alarm bells go off if your loan officer is not listed. Here is a list of current states on the NMLS.If your state is not listed, do a search for your states mortgage originator license requirements. It is also not unreasonable to request that your loan officer provide you with a copy of their license. Something else to note, loan officers for federally chartered banks are not bound by the NMLS licensing requirements.
2. Try to work with someone that you know or comes highly recommended. One of the great features on Zillow is access to consumer reviews. If you have a loan officer with 95 reviews and all are 5 stars, they are probably someone that you can trust. Loan Officers on Zillow also do a pretty good job of policing the community. Not everyone on Zillow has a significant amount of reviews, if any at all. So it might not be fair to dismiss them completely, simply because they are new to Zillow Mortgage Marketplace. In that situation, I would recommend doing a little bit of internet research on your loan officer and just as importantly the company that they work for. Always interview your loan officer over the phone or in person and trust your gut.
3. Whenever possible, go directly to your loan officer to submit your financial documents at their office. Take a look around the office. Are all state licenses displayed in plain view? Do you see loan files spread all over the place? Are sensitive income documents in plain view? These are red flags! All loan documents should be kept under lock and key at all times, unless they are being reviewed. A responsible loan officer will have a desk that is clear of sensitive information.
I believe that the mortgage industry is primarily made up of upstanding professionals. Through regulations like the NMLS, it is getting better every day. Still it is necessary that you perform diligence to protect your identity and your assets.