Protect Against Real Estate Cyber Scams
Cyber scams targeting real estate offices has been a hot topic for the last few years, and with good reason – $19 million was stolen in 2016, and $969 million from buyers in 2017 alone due to these scams. The most popular scam currently operating is wire fraud, accomplished by hacking into unsecured email belonging to real estate agents, lenders, or insurance companies and posing as those agents to convince the buyers to wire their funds to a fraudulent account.
How can you protect yourself? Read these 5 tips for consumers and offices alike:
- Avoid clicking on unknown links. One of the ways these scammers can hack into the email accounts of agents and lenders is by phishing. By clicking on a suspect link in a spam email, you may accidentally open your account or your computer to the scammer. Spam emails have been around for years as well, and have only grown more sophisticated. Even if an email appears legitimate, think twice and only click if you’re certain. Links in text messages may also be scams as well, and text messaging scams have been on the rise. Overall, be cautious about clicking on any unknown link, whether it’s an email or text.
- Update software. Annoying? Yes. Necessary? Also yes. Keeping your software updated on your phone, computer, and any other electronic device you use is a good policy. Often these updates contain bug fixes that are meant to deter hackers from exploiting holes, and operating on outdated software may leave you vulnerable to glitches that a hacker can use.
- Air-gap your computers. If you keep very sensitive information on a computer, you may want to air-gap it. This means the computer itself is not connected to the Internet or to any other computer that is also connected to the Internet. By utilizing the air-gap method, you can increase your chances of avoiding a hack. This doesn’t need to be done for every computer you own, but it may be a strategy you consider for the computers containing extremely valuable or sensitive data.
- Strengthen your passwords. We have all been guilty of using weak passwords at one point or another. It is often wise to create a schedule to change or update your old passwords, such as every six months so that even if someone does obtain one of your passwords, they will be locked out. However, it’s better to try to prevent that from happening in the first place, and a strong password will help with that. This article contains advice on both the traditional method for creating passwords and a somewhat different method utilizing at least four random but easy to remember words. Use the best method for you, but strengthen your passwords!
- Implement two-factor authentication. This tip also may feel annoying, and for some, it is. Two-factor authentication means that instead of simply entering your username and password for an account, you must also validate your identity or ownership by entering a code texted to your phone or sent to the recovery email listed for your account. Any hacker would also need access to your phone or email to access that code and enter it to get into the account. It’s an extra step, but it works.