The National Association of Realtors and the Federal Trade Commission have formed a partnership to prevent identity theft, aiming to educate home buyers on how to protect themselves against the crime, NAR said Tuesday.

As part of the “Deter, Detect and Defend” program, NAR is distributing consumer education brochures and DVDs to Realtors across the country through its more than 1,400 local and state associations. Information and resources are also available at www.Realtor.org/idtheft, the organization said.

“People’s dreams of home ownership can be dashed in an instant if their identity is stolen,” said NAR President Thomas M. Stevens, in a statement released Tuesday in Vienna, Va. where the Realtors Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is going on.

“As America’s leading advocate for home ownership, NAR is arming our 1.2 million Realtor members with information they need to help their clients deter, detect and defend against identity theft – it’s just one more way that Realtors can add value to the real estate transaction,” Stevens said.

Because the home-buying process invariably involves sharing a certain amount of personal information with third parties, home buyers are at risk and should be particularly cautious, NAR said.

Buyers who provide personal information online to be referred to a network of mortgage lenders or real estate professionals are, in effect, authorizing the owners of that site to sell their information to third parties, NAR said.

“Realtors play a critical role in the fight against identity theft,” said Stevens. “Consumers should always be careful when sharing financial or other personal information, whether in person, on the phone, or over the Internet.”

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