Our ever-advancing technology has facilitated many aspects of a real estate transaction, and enabled real estate businesses to streamline many processes. However, the convenience of technology has also made it easier for cyber criminals, hackers, and identity thieves to succeed in many acts of real estate fraud. Cybersecurity tips are a must to follow at any time of year, especially during the holiday season.
The real estate industry in particular is a popular target of cyber criminals due to the large amounts of money involved in a real estate transaction, and because so much personal and financial information is sent via email to numerous parties involved in a real estate transaction. Cyber criminals utilize a number of methods for obtaining this information, from phishing emails to fraudulent text messages to malware and more.
And while cyber criminals are active throughout the entire year, the holidays can be particularly lucrative for them, since many real estate professionals and businesses often find themselves too busy to keep up with proper cyber security protocols.
The Importance of Cybersecurity Tips in the Real Estate Industry
Being a victim of an identity thief or cyber criminal can be devastating. If you work in the real estate industry, the damage that could be caused by losing your personal and financial information, or the data of clients, could potentially destroy your business.
Real estate fraud affects everyone involved in a real estate transaction and also has lingering effects that could last quite a long time, affecting your reputation and your finances. But by ensuring that you take the proper steps to reduce the risk of fraud and cyber attacks, you can keep your own information and client’s personal data safe.
Follow these cybersecurity protocols throughout the year and especially during the holiday season, and you’ll be able to avoid most security threats.
One of the favorite tools of cyber criminals is the phishing email. This is an email that is cleverly designed to mimic an email from a brand or business you know and trust, such as a bank, credit card company, major retailer, or other online brand that you might have an account with.
The email typically describes some sort of privacy issue or another matter that requires an urgent response. This is designed to get you to act quickly without examining the email in depth. The phishing email usually requires you to sign into your account in order to rectify the problem, and provides a link for you to do so.
However, the link actually leads to a cleverly designed fake website, and when you enter your username and password, it is actually sent to a cyber criminal. The hacker can then use that information to try to break into some of your other accounts, such as your email account, and access a wealth of private and personal information that can be used for identity theft and other fraudulent activities.
That’s why it’s important to use different and strong passwords for each account, which brings us to our next important cybersecurity tip…
Long, complex passwords will better serve to thwart hackers, and 2FA will pretty much eliminate their ability to break into an account. Using different passwords for each account you have means that even if a hacker manages to get a password for one account, they can’t use it to access any other accounts.
2FA, short for two-factor authentication, is an extra step in the sign-in process and a very strong additional layer of security. When you have 2Fa enabled on an account, you will need to enter an additional piece of information to sign in that a hacker just won’t be able to get, such as a unique 6-digit number that was texted to your mobile device when you attempt to sign-in.
Many businesses already allow you to enable 2FA as an option — it is in your best interests to use it.
Note: Understandably, you have concerns about having to remember so many different passwords. You can use a password manager to keep them all ready and secure, and you’ll only need to remember one password then.
As a real estate professional you are probably used to conducting business throughout the day in several different places. But when you do so using public Wi-Fi, you are taking a big chance. Hackers and cyber criminals can easily hijack public Wi-Fi signals (or create their own) and view any online activity you engage in.
It is a good idea to invest in your own portable Wi-Fi and a virtual private network (VPN) which will keep your online activity safe from prying eyes.
Incidences of wire fraud and earnest money fraud are on the rise. You can reduce the risk of these types of fraud by using a secure electronic ACH money transfer system. Paymints.io is one popular system that uses bank-level security and advanced identification tools to ensure that all transactions are performed in a safe, secure manner, by the proper individuals. It’s an ideal tool for real estate professionals to collect earnest money deposits and other payments such as closing costs without having to worry about the potential for fraud.
Phishing emails or fake website links could also cause you to unknowingly download malware, which can wreak havoc with your network and destroy your important data. Get into the habit of making a daily backup at the end of each business day or automatically overnight. This way, if you do get infected by malware, or even if you just lose data due to an accident or natural occurrence, you’ll be able to restore it from the backup and continue working without incident.
Taking all these measure on a regular basis is important, but it is also equally important to make sure that your clients do the same, or they are also putting themselves and you at risk. Teach them to watch for fraudulent emails as well as text messages that look suspicious, and have them call you if they aren’t sure that an email or message actually came from you.
You can also direct them to visit online forums and blogs to learn more about the real estate process, further putting their minds at ease during what can often be a stressful time.
If you’d like to learn more about how using a secure ACH money transfer system can help you reduce the risk of fraud, head to paymints.io or schedule a free demo today!