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Are you at risk of wire fraud in Real Estate?

Closing on a new house is very exciting, but it’s also busy and expensive. It also could make you very vulnerable to hackers who know there is a lot of money on the line.

Real EstateAny industry involving wiring transfers of large sums of money is vulnerable to this new type of hack. Purchasing a car, home or piece of art are large transactions and are not usually done in cash. In well-established industries like real estate, there are some checks and balances, but while one would think it would be very tough to pull off this scam in real estate, it is just as easy.

When looking at the home buying process, a report by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said email fraud involving real estate transactions rose 1,110 percent in the years 2015 to 2017 and fraud dollars lost rose almost 2,200 percent. That means scammers are getting more efficient.

Nearly 10,000 people reported being victims of this kind of fraud in 2017 with losses over $56 million, the FBI report said. Real estate is only now tightening its belt and fighting back. However, the real estate industry’s security is not even close to the levels of security in the art world. Yet, both industries are susceptible to this new hack.

How the Hack Works

Although it’s not entirely a new concept, this is the freshest approach hackers are targeting real estate agents, and your clients. You need to put this on your radar! This is a pretty simple hack. Basically, criminals are breaking into the email accounts and then they monitor the email correspondence. Breaking in, in other words means “logging in” because millions of email addresses and their associated passwords are in the hands of criminals due to massive data breaches. So when the agent sends an email to client maybe with wiring instructions, the hacker is triggered and will step in. The bad guy will now impersonate the agent and warn that the instructions had a mistake on it or change up the instructions. The criminal does this to justify a wire transfer, maybe offering a slight discount, and then asks the buyer to send the money to a different account. Once the hackers have the money, the hacker just disappears.

The Victims of This Scam

Both buyers and sellers are victims here, and in many cases, both are left in the dark because the hacker hijacks the conversation. In other words, they take control of the emails and play both parts. This gives the hacker plenty of time to cover their tracks and get away, and in the meantime, money and time is lost for all parties involved. A wire fraud happening in the finance industry used to be a “thing,” but there are so many security protocols in place within finance making it difficult to pull off a transfer scam within the financial space.

Tips to Keep Email Fraud at Bay

These tips are for buyers, brokers, and real estate agents.

  • All email account passwords should include uppercase, lowercase, numbers and characters. Never use the same password twice—NEVER.
  • All email should have two-step authentication. This means after logging in, a one-time password is texted to the user’s mobile for account access.
  • Make sure to change all passwords for online accounts, including Wi-Fi, regularly and especially after a data breach.
  • Escrow services are your friend. There’s a ton of them. The gallery or broker will, or should, have a relationship with a trusted source.
  • Pick up the phone, and confirm every aspect of a transaction until you are blue in the face and annoying everyone involved to the point you are satisfied that the money is safe.
  • Update all of your anti-virus software.
  • When you send an invoice via email, call or text a trusted number of the recipient to double check that they got it and that they have the correct account number.
  • Urge all of your staff to remain vigilant when opening emails, and make sure that they do not click on any links or download attachments unless the correspondence has been verified by phone. If you have doubt, contact the sender by phone.

There is so much more to this, and, while I can’t solve all the world’s problems, I can at least make you cyber-security smarter and digitally literate.

Become CSI Protect Certified

If any or all of the above has left you empowered, meaning you feel you have a grip on it all, good for you. If the above was a bit overwhelming, confusing and made you feel like you have a LOT of work to do, then you need to become CSI Protect Certified. That means as a small business owner you become fully versed in Cyber Social and Identity Protection. CSI Protection Certified Agents recognize risk and know how to protect their information, their business data and their clients security.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Louisiana Woman Tries to Buy a Million Dollar Home with False Documents

Have you ever seen a house and thought…I wish I could afford that? Some people actually try it, but let this story be a lesson learned: if you can’t afford the cost of a house, you probably shouldn’t try to buy it.

Robert Siciliano Marriott Breach

Pamela Chandler was arrested and now faces forgery charges after she tried to purchase a home with a million-dollar price tag. How did she do it? She used false documents. Chandler, who also goes as Pamela Goldwyn, was arrested by a special Financial Crimes Task Force in Bossier City, LA. She also has several warrants out for her in Texas with crimes including fraud and the exploitation of certain groups of people including children, the elderly or the disabled. She was booked in jail and was not given a bond, as she is a flight risk.

According to court records, Chandler, who lists her age as 47, has a permanent address in Athens, Texas, but also has addresses in Maryland and Louisiana. A local Bossier City realtor reported her to local law officials after she tried to use illegitimate paperwork to buy the home. She claimed to have a trust fund, but the paperwork just didn’t add up. As the task force began to investigate the situation, it was found that she had also altered a letter from a layer to try to convince the realtor that she had enough in this fake trust fund to buy the home. It was also discovered that she had used a number of aliases over the years. It is believed that she uses an alias in a specific area until law enforcement catches on to her scams, and then changes her name and moves to a new area.

Much of the problem here can be blamed on easily obtained fake IDs. The fact is, our existing identification systems are insufficiently secure, and our identifying documents are easily copied. Anyone with a computer, scanner and printer can recreate an ID. Outdated systems exasperate the problem by making it too easy to obtain a real ID at the DMV, with either legitimate or falsified information.

Some of the department of multivehicle new requirements of improving facial recognition include not smiling for your picture or smile as long as you keep your lips together. Other requirements meant to aid the facial recognition software include keeping your head upright (not tilted), not wearing eyeglasses in the photo, not wearing head coverings, and keeping your hair from obscuring your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, or ears.

The fact is, identity theft is a big problem due to a systematic lack of effective identification and is going to continue to be a problem until further notice. In the meantime it is up to you to protect yourself. The best defense from new account fraud is identity theft protection.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

Fake Real Estate Agent Caught Stealing $30K in Jewelry

Recently, a man was accused of pretending to be a real estate agent just to steal some jewelry from an open house. According to Toronto police, he has been arrested.

The victims are a couple (their identity isn’t being listed for their safety). They had an open house in a small city called Oakville. It’s in Ontario, which is about an hour west of Toronto (also in Canada). According to the investigators, a 29-year-old man saw an online ad for the open house. He decided to pretend that he was a real estate agent, went inside the home, and stole over $30,000 worth of jewelry from one of the upstairs bedrooms.

A native of Willow Beach, Ontario, a nearby town, the man was charged with a single count of being in a dwelling unlawfully and a single count of a theft over $5,000. Local law enforcement believes that this theft wasn’t an isolated incident. They’re currently encouraging people with information to provide details on this case or others in which they believe the man might be to blame.

Throughout the years, many criminals have tried posing as real estate agents to get access to people’s homes and buyer’s homes. Just last month in California, a woman was arrested for posing to be a realtor to steal tens of thousands of dollars from homebuyers.

Along with such, another man was arrested in January on the suspicion that he had posed as a real estate professional to steal rare art, expensive jewelry, and fine wine from a variety of celebrities, including Adam Lambert and Usher. His name was Benjamin Eitan Ackerman. It is important that homebuyers ensure that they are talking with their real estate agent each time that they speak with them on the phone or email them. You should see company letterhead on emails and may want to call the agent back on the number you have for them to ensure your safety.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

The Surveillance Seller: The Latest Concern for Real Estate Buyers and Agents

Imagine that you are looking for a new home with your spouse and children, and while at a showing, the agent gets a strange call. It’s her listing agent who informs her that the sellers are watching all of you on a camera, and they want to make sure your children are careful around the china cabinet…

What? This happens? It most certainly does, and it’s definitely freaky. Plus, it raises some legal and ethical questions, too. This has become more of an issue than ever before with real estate, and agents are really dealing with something they have never had to worry about before.

In general, there are laws out there about recording people without their knowledge, but these laws vary by state, and what is covered in one place might not be covered in another. On top of that, most real estate agents aren’t aware of what is legal and what is not. Some states, for example, only require that one person knows that the surveillance is happening, but in other states, both parties must be aware. Other states require that a notice is posted if recording is happening.

The majority of agents believe that they have an obligation to tell their clients if they know that there is recording equipment in a home, but at the same time, they might not know either. This can also, of course, cause some legal issues during a negotiation, as potential buyers might be discussing strategy during the showing, while a seller could be listening in, giving them the upper hand. Some agents have even told their clients that they shouldn’t talk about what they are thinking about a house until they are outside and away from any potential recording equipment.

On the other hand, some sellers believe that they have an absolute right to record in their own homes, and they very well may have that right. Again, in general, things are quite cloudy here, and they are only set to get cloudier as time goes on.

At this point, it’s not even just traditional surveillance cameras that homeowners are using. They also are using smart-home technology to keep an eye on their homes including video game consoles, smart door bells, and even devices like Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices. Of course, there are also a number of privacy concern associated with these things, too. As these devices get cheaper than ever before, more and more homeowners are jumping on the surveillance bandwagon. So, if you are a in the market to buy or sell a home, make sure you talk to your realtor about this, especially if you are a seller who has these devices in the home.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.