The media often reports on fraudulent schemes enacted by scammers, identity thieves, and cyber criminals. Fraud is rampant in many industries, but cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the real estate industry due to the large sums of money involved in real estate transactions and the significant amount of personal banking and identification data that is sent between the parties involved in a home or property sale. There are many types of real estate fraud committed by cyber criminals, but much of it can prevented if real estate professionals and their clients practiced common sense cyber security protocols and work at bank level security.
Additionally, to further prevent the risk of fraud and ensure that the real estate transaction goes smoothly, it is important for real estate professionals to guarantee bank level security. This will serve to protect both client information and your own, as well as ensure that any payments that are made for earnest money deposits, closings costs, and other related fees or disbursement are not stolen via fraudulent means.
Understanding How Cyber Criminals Work
Before you can guarantee bank level security, you must understand how and why cyber criminals are able to acquire the information they need to succeed in a real estate fraud scheme. Quite often, it is simply just negligence on the part of the buyer, a title company agent, an escrow agent, or the real estate agent. Sometimes it’s just something as simple as not using a strong password for your email account or falling prey to a phishing email.
Cyber criminals rely on you and others in the real estate industry to be lax in how you protect your own personal information and the information of clients, and seize upon any opportunity to hack into your accounts and discover the treasure trove of information contained in your emails.
Many times, it isn’t necessarily a buyer that has their information compromised by an identity thief, but a real estate agent. Identity thieves have become pretty clever in assuming the identity of an actual agent and using the information they acquired to dupe others in the industry out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Such schemes are often discovered, but if a cyber criminal or identity thief is successful, it can cause serious financial difficulty for those who are affected by the real estate fraud.
So it’s vitally important that you follow these tips to protect sensitive data, and ensure bank level security to eliminate the risk of real estate fraud.
A different, strong password for each account is what is recommended by experts. Weak passwords account for a multitude of data breaches, but strong passwords significantly reduce the chances of a hacker gaining access to an account. Using different passwords is also important because if a hacker was able to acquire a username and password for one account and you use the same for other accounts, the hacker would then have access to a great amount of sensitive information. You can use a password manager to keep track of all your passwords while still ensuring protection.
Using 2FA to sign into accounts is a huge improvement in your personal data security. Two-factor authentication works by requiring an extra step to signing into an account. This is usually something like entering a code that is sent to you via text message, which is something a cyber criminal would not be able to see or guess. Many major websites, financial institutions, and other organizations already enable you to use 2FA, but you may need to activate the option.
Phishing emails also account for many major data breaches. Phishing emails and text messages fool people because they are emails that look like they’re from a company you know or trust, such as a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, or an online retail marketplace. The email typically contains a message of some urgency, such as a notice that your account has been suspended or an order has been placed that you need to verify. And when you click on the link in the email or open an attachment, you either unknowingly download malware that infects your computer or you give your username and password to a hacker or identity thief.
Although some of these phishing emails can look pretty clever and sophisticated, Identifying phishing emails isn’t that difficult if you know what to look for. By training yourself and others in your employ or organization to spot and avoid falling victim to phishing emails, you can keep your own data and client data protected.
Because many types of real estate fraud involve cashier’s checks, money orders, and wire transfers, many real estate professionals opt to use an ACH transfer platform that offers bank level security and encryption tools, such as paymints.io. This safe, secure money transfer platform will protect personal bank information that can be used to hack into a bank account by using AES-256, the strongest encryption standard that is used by many banks and is said to be unbreakable.
In addition, paymints.io also uses advanced ID verification tools to ensure that money transfers are being initiated by individuals who are exactly who they say they are, eliminating the risk of fraud. Using an ACH transfer platform for money transfers isn’t just safe for your clients, but also safe for others involved in the real estate transaction, since a fraudulent scheme could affect everyone involved, such as the seller, the escrow agent, and the title company.
The good news is that by following the tips above you can provide a safe, secure real estate transaction for your clients who will feel assured that their money and information is safe thanks to bank level security protocols. Letting your clients know that you have invested in bank level security and practice common cyber security protocols to reduce the risk of fraud also indicates your professionalism and dedication to keeping their important financial and personal data secure.