Scams and Cyber Threats Becoming Prolific in Real Estate Industry

UPDATE (May 2017):  Internet Crime Complaint Center and ALTA confirms that “title companies report 480% increase in wire fraud attacks” in 2016.

 

We all know that there are new scams and cyber threats daily, more systems and companies are being hacked into, and our personal data is potentially at risk.  Some of us have even been the victims of credit card fraud and had our data stolen, just by using our credit cards for basic purchases.  We know that the big banks are getting hit as well, and they are trying to battle this growing threat.  Sadly, knowing that these security risks are so common can lead to these stories being white noise.

A recent article, ‘Public yawns at threat of cybercrime’, touches on this disconnect with what is becoming an everyday story.  Part of the problem may lie in the fact that even with our data being taken or our credit cards being fraudulently used, the problem seems just a hassle to fix.  Most of the times the problems can still be resolved with a few phone calls and possibly some fees, but not much else lost.  We can forget that these types of things are happening to people at an alarming rate, and often we may not be as vigilant to protect ourselves as we should.

A major issue is that some may not realize how easily scams can happen when buying, selling or refinancing your home.  A couple months ago, a woman was tricked into sending money to the wrong bank account.  Prior to her closing, the victim received an email saying that as her last step before closing she needed to wire funds, and gave fraudulent bank account information.  She thought it was an email from her title company, but it was cyber crooks posing as the company she was doing business with.  Her wire of $25,000 that was supposed to go towards the purchase of a new house instead went to these criminals.  “Basically everybody said that their hands are tied and it’s our battle because it’s our money,” the victim said.  Around the country, similar stories and scams are becoming more prevalent in the real estate industry.

You will find there is a myriad of suggestions out there to protect yourself against different threats in different ways.

  • Like protecting your computers and cell phones with the latest patches and updates, and choose strong passwords.
  • Be cautious of sharing your personal information, including what you post on social networks and online.
  • Beware of phishing emails, even when it looks like it is coming from a company you are doing business with. When in doubt, contact the company by phone (look up the phone number, don’t trust that the phone number in the email is the correct one).
  • Continue to learn about common scams and research prevention tips.
  • Talk about these things with family, friends, and coworkers to promote others to learn how to protect themselves. Sharing a cybercrime story with a neighbor could be the eye-opener to save them from falling into a scam.
  • The best way to protect yourself is to continue to be vigilant and educate yourself.
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