Real Estate Fraud Is Booming: How Are You Protecting Your Clients?

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) point to boom times for real estate fraud. In 2022, real estate fraud cost victims $396.9 million, a 13.30% rise from 2021 and an 86.18% rise from 2020. More than $132 million more was lost to real estate fraud in 2022 than to check and credit card fraud, which get the majority of the headlines.

Real Estate Fraud Is Booming: How Are You Protecting Your Clients?As the FBI notes, these crimes can be devastating for individuals, who could lose their life savings or the opportunity to use money from a home sale to purchase another property. Loss of a commission or fee is the least of the worries here. Imagine how you would feel if your actions caused someone to lose everything they had. Imagine what that client will say about you, and the damage this could cause to your business and professional reputation.

Why Is Real Estate Fraud Rising?

Real estate is a preferred target for criminals for one reason: wire fraud. Few other industries move money from individual clients at the level of real estate professionals. A single transaction can be worth $250,000, $500,000 or over $1,000,000. All a criminal has to do is grab one of those transactions for a massive payday.

Sophisticated criminals know that real estate wire transfers are low-risk, high-yield opportunities. Why settle for a few hundred dollars from a stolen credit card when a single wire transfer could be worth hundreds of thousands?

How Real Estate Wire Fraud Works

The majority of real estate wire fraud cases stem from business email compromise (BEC) attacks. You may currently be in the crosshairs of a fraudster and not know it.

These attacks follow a predictable pattern:

  1. A criminal gains access to email accounts for individuals involved in a real estate transaction. This could be an agent, a broker, a banker or an individual buyer or seller.
  2. The criminal waits until the wire transfer is about to take place. They then send an email, either spoofing a real email account or directly from a compromised email, directing the wire transfer to a bank account that they control.
  3. The unwitting real estate professional sends the transfer to the bogus account.
  4. The criminal empties the account as soon as the transfer is complete. They may withdraw cash, transfer the funds to new accounts, convert the money to cryptocurrency or make deposits via large checks.

Around half of the money stolen in wire fraud scams remains in the United States, while the other half routes to offshore banks, with China and Hong Kong as top destinations. Once the money has been moved, there is little that law enforcement can do to recover it, though the recovery rate is higher for money that stays in the United States.

Steps to Take to Prevent Wire Fraud

To protect your clients and your business, you must first acknowledge that you are a target. You transfer life-changing amounts of money using methods that criminals understand and know how to exploit. In the 1800s, criminals went after stagecoaches loaded with cash and valuables, as well as trains. In the 1900s, criminals infiltrated airports and robbed couriers and armored vehicles. In the current era, a single criminal can get a larger payday by intercepting a single wire transfer.

Today’s criminal may have an edge, because the people who moved cash and valuables in the past knew that they were targets and took steps to defend themselves, while the targets of wire fraud may be completely unaware of their vulnerability. Know that criminals are watching you, that they want to steal from you and that it is a matter of when, not if, they will attack.

Understanding this threat will help you recognize risks. Vigilance is the most important tool in cyber security. With that in mind, here are some techniques you can use to prevent wire fraud.

Preventing Real Estate Fraud in Your Business

Be aware that criminals will attempt to gain access to your email, business emails, client emails and the systems you use to transfer funds, such as online banking apps. You may not know that an account has been compromised, and criminals may wait to launch an attack until they see a high-dollar transaction.

1. Enable two-factor authentication. Anyone who has the authority to issue a wire transfer must use some form of two-factor authentication to protect their email and banking logins. This is required for all users of GMail, and should be an option for any software you use. The best form of two-factor authentication sends a code via text message to your phone. Never share these codes with anyone under any circumstances.

2. Monitor network activity. Your in-house or third-party IT support professionals, or a Virtual CISO, should monitor online requests to and from the services you use. In some cases, service providers may do this automatically. Requests that come from unusual locations or at unusual hours, as well as any first-time request from a new location, should be flagged for review. Criminals need to communicate with your servers to send fake emails. Monitoring logins and access requests is one of the best ways to detect criminal intrusions. Monitor for unusual data exchanges as well, as these could signal a cyber attack.

3. Change passwords often, or use a password manager. Criminals like soft targets who do not appear to be aware of cyber security. Changing passwords sends a signal that you take security seriously. Using a password manager sends the same message. Do not expect to deter all criminals engaged in wire fraud with this method, as the lure of a big payout tends to make criminals more persistent and willing to take bigger risks, but do know that these methods will make it much harder for them.

4. Require additional authorization before sending a wire transfer. Set a company-wide protocol that requires a second person within your business to review wire transfers before they are sent. This person should receive a copy of any emails authorizing transfers, including the sender and reply-to lines. A second set of eyes may catch an irregularity that you miss.

Protecting Clients from Wire Fraud

1. Educate clients on wire fraud risks. You may worry that clients will choose someone else if you start talking about wire fraud. In reality, some clients will approach you fully aware of the risks, while others will find your focus on security valuable. As part of your initial meeting with a new client, ask them what they know about wire fraud. Position yourself as knowledgeable and committed to protection.

2. Collect two contact emails and phone numbers, if possible. Make a note of these in the client’s record. Inform the client that no transaction can be authorized without verification via a phone call. When criminals send phony transfer requests, they often include a phone number to call. Ignore this and use the number you have on file. If you cannot reach someone at the primary number, use the secondary number.

3. Establish a password with your clients. This should be communicated only by voice, never by email. It should be something difficult to guess, and potentially meaningful to the client, such as a favorite teacher’s or pet’s name. Tell the client that you will call to verify any transfer request and that you will ask for the password. If the client forgets the password, ask them to come to the office to verify a request in person, or offer to visit them to confirm.

4. Refuse to accept wire transfer instructions via email. If your company policy forbids emailed instructions, and you communicate this clearly to clients, you can ignore every criminal attempt to email transfer instructions. If you receive such an email, you will then know that someone involved in the transaction has had their cyber security compromised.

5. Have the client personally verify transfer receipt. If possible, this step ensures that funds go to the right place. Time is of the essence in stopping wire fraud, as criminals will begin moving the money the moment they have access to it.

Remember that criminals may target your client. Everyone involved in a high-dollar transaction should be on alert for unusual online activity. Warn clients that someone claiming to be you may try to contact them. Setting up client-specific passwords and requiring voice or in-person verification of transfers are two of the best ways to stop criminals from hijacking funds.

Be aware that criminals have access to a growing arsenal of sophisticated tools, including AI-powered deepfake technology that allows them to impersonate someone’s voice in real time from just a few seconds of online audio. While this may seem too sophisticated to affect you, remember that a single transfer worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is strong motivation for criminals.

Real estate fraud seldom makes headlines, but it happens every single day, and it can wipe out your clients finances. To serve your clients professionally, you must make cyber security awareness and training part of your practice. If you need help with training, or with securing your systems against criminals, please call us at 1-8oo-658-8311 or contact us online.

Lessons Every Worker Can Take from Realtor Safety Month

September 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) REALTOR® Safety Month. With more than 1,5 million members, the NAR is the largest trade association in the United States, and it has extensive experience working with real estate professionals, law enforcement and government officials to improve on-the-job safety.

Lessons Every Worker Can Take from Realtor Safety MonthIt should surprise no one that real estate brokers, appraisers, salespeople and property managers are victims of violent crime, with 23% reporting that they feared for their safety, or the safety of their personal information, in the 2022 NAR Member Safety Residential Report. That is nearly 1 in 4 individuals who felt threatened on the job,

Safety Month exists to raise awareness of the common dangers faced by these professionals, who often meet with people alone, in remote locations and in empty buildings. Those situations are not unique to the real estate industry. Safety Month guidelines from the NAR are valuable for any worker who interacts with the public, particularly those who visit clients at home or in remote locations, including delivery drivers, rideshare drivers, plumbers, electricians and salespeople.

Understanding and Assessing Risk at Work

Safety Month was created to encourage workers to think about the risks they face on the job and the best ways to manage them. In assessing risk, it can be helpful to think about what motivates criminals and how they choose their victims.

Most criminals seek financial gain and use manipulation, harassment, threats or, if all else fails, violence to get what they want from you. There are some cases where an individual seeks to inflict some kind of personal harm on someone else, but these cases are far rarer than robberies or muggings. You are most likely to be a victim of monetary or property theft on the job.

Criminals prefer easy targets in situations that they can control, away from others. How you present yourself, both in person and online, and how you protect yourself on the job contribute to a criminal’s assessment of your vulnerability. Making yourself a difficult target and limiting the chances for a dangerous encounter will protect you from the majority of criminals.

Here are some practical steps you can take to make criminals think twice about targeting you.

  1. Be mindful of what you share online. Your online profile does more than advertise you to potential clients. It also lets criminals know how vulnerable you are. It is increasingly common for criminals to research their targets online and plan a robbery ahead of time. If you follow good practices for cyber security, which include limiting what you share, regularly changing passwords and enabling two-factor authentication, criminals may move on from you to someone who appears to be an easier target. Personal phone numbers, personal emails and daily schedules should never be shared online.
  2. Always meet new clients in your office or a public place. This will not work for service professionals, such as plumbers and electricians, but it is recommended for all other workers. If you are conducting an assessment or inspection in a remote area, ask to meet in public place nearby and travel to the location from there. This will give you a chance to assess any possible risk.
  3. Travel in pairs. Many service professionals do this with new clients. Bringing someone else reduces risk but does not eliminate it. If you feel that you will be outnumbered by a group of criminals, leave the area.
  4. Ask for a preliminary video conference. Service professionals can ask a potential customer to show them the problem. Real estate professionals and appraisers can ask for a quick video tour of the property. Criminals will not agree to this, either because there is no real problem or because they do not have access to the property.
  5. Keep a second phone exclusively for business use. Carry it along with a personal phone wherever you go. Be sure to check coverage maps when selecting a second phone, so that you can maintain signal wherever you go. In the worst-case scenario, you can throw your business phone at an attacker and run while keeping your personal phone to call for help.
  6. Be mindful of urgency. Criminals often use the pretext of immediate need, or the threat of a lost opportunity, to lure victims into situations they would otherwise avoid. They may contact you late in the day, over the weekend or on a holiday and tell you that you must immediately come to a location to win their business. If you attempt to slow the process down, either by scheduling an appointment the next day or asking for a video tour, criminals will either give up on you or demand that you come anyway. Never let the promise of business overcome your personal safety rules.
  7. Be aware of individuals who lurk. Keep a close eye on people who arrive late to an open house, insist on a showing very late in the day or who shadow you while you do your job. Some curiosity on the part of customers is normal; someone who follows you closely is a potential danger. In this situation, ask for some space so you can do your work or inform the customer that you need to check something outside.
  8. Take a self-defense class. The NAR reports that 40% of Realtors® have completed a self-defense class. Good classes teach the ability to spot dangerous situations as well as how to react to them. It is always better to avoid the confrontation entirely than to know how to handle it.
  9. Carry a self-defense tool. Service professionals will have a truck or van full of things that can be useful in an attack, but salespeople, appraisers and real estate professionals may have little more than a pen and a computer. The best self-defense measures are nonlethal and have an area of effect, such as pepper spray. You will be more likely to use them in a dangerous situation, and they can incapacitate several attackers at once. Be sure to check your state’s rules for licensing and training, as you could face criminal charges if you discharge pepper spray or bear spray, even in self defense.
  10. Report any threatening messages you receive. The 2022 NAR Member Safety Residential Report revealed that 30% of Realtors® who were targeted by criminals received a threatening voice mail, email or text message before the attack. Threatening messages should be taken very seriously by all professionals, and you should take extra precautions after receiving them. The individual who threatens ahead of time is more likely to be motivated by anger or revenge and is simply looking for a chance to attack. This individual wants to harm you, unlike the opportunist criminal who simply wants to steal your phone or money.

Safety Month Exists to Challenge Your Routine

All workers fall into rhythms and routines on the job. Even those who practice good personal and cyber security may get comfortable over time and relax their safety practices in pursuit of efficiency or out of a sense of confidence.

People like to think that they are aware of the risks they face. Some believe they have an instinct that lets them anticipate danger. These mental gaps can put you in threatening situations. Remember that criminals have one job: To find victims and steal from them. They spend all of their time looking for new tactics and honing strategies that succeed.

Safety Month provides an opportunity to think about the risks you face and to retrain yourself in practices that limit risk. This is a good time to review personal protocols, company protocols and cyber security practices. Should you need help with cyber security, or guidance on establishing safe working practices for your business, please contact us online or call us at 1-800-658-8311.


Wire Fraud: How Criminal Prey on the Real Estate, Construction, Manufacturing and Art Industries

In any industry where money is transferred or large bills are paid,the door is open for hacks. In manufacturing they pay large vendors for all materials and sometimes overseas. In construction developers pay contractors huge sums of money for labor and materials. You might be buying a home or an expensive piece of art, and either way, these transactions are typically not done in cash. You might think that in well-established industries such as the real estate industry, construction and manufacturing, there are checks and balances, but this isn’t totally the case. The same goes for the art industry.

Most of us won’t be buying multi-million-dollar pieces of art imported from Italy, but many people reading this will buy a home.

As we look at the home buying process and scams, the information is pretty frightening. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is part of the FBI, released a report that showed email fraud in the real estate industry rose more than 1,110% from 2015 to 2017. The amount of money lost in real estate fraud rose approximately 2,200%. What does this mean? It means scammers are more efficient than ever before. In 2020 that number jumped another 13%. Recently in a real estate transaction a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, wired $921,235.10 to scammers.

In 2017, almost 10,000 people reported that they were a victim of fraud and identity theft during real estate transactions, and in total, the money lost topped $56 million. Only recently has the real estate community been paying attention to this, but it’s just not enough. Again, the same thing can be said about the art world. Both of these industries are having big issues with fraud.

The Story You Have to Hear

 Every once in a while, I meet someone in my travels who seem to have the perfect life…or at least I would consider it to be pretty great. These people are smart, they have made the right choices, they have worked hard, and they have reaped some amazing awards. A couple of years ago I met a married couple who had this perfect life. The guy was literally into money. His job was to not just handle investments for companies, but for actual countries. He brought in huge commissions for this work, and the pair could literally buy anything that they wanted. However, this also made them a target for scammer.

With all of the money they had, the couple soon got into a new hobby: collecting fine art. Though I don’t know a ton about art, I can tell you that their collection was pretty amazing. They primarily collected at type of art called hyperrealism. Essentially, artists who work in hyperrealism create paintings that look like photographs. Look it up…it’s very cool.

Long story short, the guy decided that he wanted to buy a new painting. It had a price tag of $200,000, and he did this via email. Now typically, this is where alarm bells might go off, but the guy didn’t think this was weird, as he had done it like this several times before. This time, though, things were different.

You see, as he was emailing with the gallery he purchased the paintings from, a hacker was able to intercept the emails because the gallery got hacked. Instead of wiring the $200,000 to the gallery, he wired it directly to the hacker.

Keep in mind, this guy was in finance, and people in this industry are specifically conditioned to know about risk. After talking about it later, he said that there were a couple of things in the emails that could be a sign that something was wrong, but again, doing transactions via email is pretty standard in the art industry as it is in real estate.

Thankfully, his bank noticed the transaction because the account that he wired to was brand new, and the system his bank used was set up to flag any transactions that go to a new account, especially with that amount of money.

Once his bank got in contact with him, he immediately contacted the gallery and they confirmed that they had not gotten the money, and instead, it was probably a fraud. Of course he panicked, and thought his $200,000 was about to vanish. He called anyone and everyone he could think of to stop the transaction.

Finally, he realized that his company had a connection to someone higher up at the bank. He was able to get a personal call in, and they were able to stop the wire from completing. He was very lucky, but not everyone is.

Understanding How the Hack Works

 Though scammers have options at their fingertips, they do tend to like this hack, and they use it to target collectors, art galleries, manufacturers, construction companies, developers, and of course real estate companies, and more. So, if you work in these industries, or you interact with people in these industries, make sure you keep your eyes open.

Essentially, these hackers get information from data breaches, which give them email addresses and passwords from millions of people. So, when the art gallery sends an invoice to the art collector via email, the hacker realizes it, and they will step in.

The hacker takes on the persona of the dealer, the real estate agent, the developers bookkeeper, or the construction companies accountant, and comes up with a story that the client might believe, such as they need to issue a new invoice because there was a typo on it, or they need to change the instructions that the client must follow. They do this so that they can justify a change in the wiring and might even say that they can offer a small discount for the inconvenience. Usually, the buyer or the admin is happy to do this, and once the money is sent, the hacker collects it and disappears.

Victims of These Scams

 When we look at these scams, both the buyer and the seller, and all the companies involved are victims here. They are all left in the dark, and the hacker hijacks the communication. In other words, they control the emails, and they play both of the parts. In the art industry, for instance, when the gallery sends an email to its customer, the hacker intercepts the email and pretends to be the customer. The same thing happens when the customer sends an email to the gallery.

Since the hacker does this, there is plenty of time to cover their tracks and disappear. In the meantime, time and money is lost, and in some cases, the art gallery has even had to shut down for good.

Tips to Keep You Safe

If you work in any of these industries, keep these tips in mind:

  • Email account passwords should be very strong and unique. Don’t ever use the same password for more than one account. When creating a password, use uppercase and lowercase letters, and mix them with characters and numbers…and change them frequently.
  • Use password manager software and have a different password for every account.
  • Set up two-step authentication for your email account. When you log in, you will get a one-time password to your mobile phone, which means someone would need your password and your phone to get into your account.
  • Use an escrow service if you are sending large sums of cash.
  • Pick up the phone and call to confirm every step of the transaction.
  • Keep your anti-virus software updated.
  • When you send an invoice through email, text or call the recipient to check that they got it and that the account number is correct.
  • Talk to your staff about the importance of security, and make sure they understand what phishing scams are. Also, teach them not to click on any attachments or links in an email unless they have confirmed and verified the link or attachment by phone.

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

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, 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, 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.

10 Tips to Not Ending Up A Dead Real Estate Agent

Yes that title is awful and yes you should be offended. Real estate agents often find themselves in dangerous situations. And for 20 years, I’ve been screaming this, doing something about it, and it keeps happening. And the real estate agents and industries response?

Thots and prayers. Thots and prayers. Thots and prayers. Thots and prayers.

How’s that workin’ for ya?

Sometimes you have to visit unsafe neighborhoods, you might have to come face to face with a vicious dog, or even have an unsavory character walk right into an open house.

In 2016, approximately 3% of all real estate agents reported that they were physically attacked when on the clock. Though this might seem like a small number, you have to consider that only about 2% of the entire population of the country are physically attacked each year. This means, of course, that if you are a real estate agent, your odds of assault are higher than the average person.

Remember, no one is immune to this. Here’s a brief first person account posted to Facebook about a real estate agents experience…and it could even be you:

Another reason why I like running my real estate business by referral: Went to meet a female seller today who contacted me on-line. She told me she would meet me at her property as it is an occupied rental. She was there and so were about four guys. Small, cramped house. She told me the tenant would take me around as he knew the house better than her…. immediately I knew something was off.

He takes me around the first floor then he’s showing me upstairs and another guy who wasn’t one of the four downstairs appears out of nowhere and stands behind me. I’m now seriously freaking out as instinct told me something was about to happen. I made my excuses quick and went back downstairs. I put aside my manners and took out my phone and while chatting briefly with the seller, I text my location to my team. Then I left.

My 5ft 100lb self would have been no match for them.

I realized mid-way through that 10 minute tour that no-one knew where I was, I had no idea who these people were and if this woman actually was who she said she was.

Point of the story: realtors please be extra vigilant when being in homes of strangers. I know it sounds obvious yet it’s not as we are simply doing ‘our job’ and we can’t do that if we don’t visit other people’s homes. This ended well yet it could have been a very different story for me today. Stay safe and trust your instinct.”

The seller was a female, and the seller said that she would meet the agent at the property, as it was a rental and currently occupied. When the agent arrived, she saw the seller along with four men in a small, cramped house. The seller, herself, would not give the agent a tour of this home; instead, she said one of the tenants would take her.


Almost instantly, the agent knew something was weird about this. One of the men took the agent to the second floor, and before she knew it, there was another man directly behind her…and this man was NOT one of the men she had seen downstairs.

This was a very scary situation, and though this story did not end in disaster, plenty of these situations, do. Be smart, stay vigilant, and trust your instincts when something seems off.

Here are 10 tips that you can use to keep yourself from ending up a dead real estate agent:

  1. Research – Before you meet with a potential buyer, make sure to do a little research. This might be as simple as doing a Google search on them, or you can create a questionnaire to get information from them.
  2. Get an ID – Ask for the ID of any potential buyer/seller before showing the home. You should be able to get a photo of their ID and keep it on your phone and text it to a colleague just in case. If they refuse, this is a red flag.
  3. Show During Daylight Hours – Only show a home during daylight hours.
  4. Bring a Buddy – Do you have an assistant, friend, or family member who wants to keep you safe? Bring them along. When showing a home, try to bring a buddy. Make sure the buyer/seller knows that this other person is coming.
  5. Know What You are Going Into – Do your best to get a lay of the land when going into a home for the first time. Ask if there is anyone else in the home, too.
  6. Stay Near Exits – Make sure when you are showing a home, or being shown and home, that you always have an eye on the exit. Also, don’t go into any area, such as a basement, where someone couldn’t hear you if you had to yell for help. Unless you bring a buddy, and allow the buyer to take a look on their own, if necessary.
  7. Don’t Let Your Guard Down – Any person who walks into a home is a potential “bad guy/gal.” Don’t let your guard down, even if they seem like they are an upstanding citizen.
  8. Advertise Smartly – When advertising, make sure to do so smartly. Make sure that people know that viewing the home is by appointment only and that you will be checking their ID before showing the home.
  9. Dress Appropriately – Don’t wear any expensive jewelry when showing a home, and make sure to dress in a professional manner. Wearing clothing that is revealing, for instance, can send the wrong message.
  10. Trust Your Gut – Finally, trust your gut. If something seems wrong, it probably is.

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.

Your Real Estate Agent May Have a Gun

If you are thinking of buying a house, and you start going to open houses, you might be surprised to learn an interesting fact: the real estate agent might be carrying a gun. Some of you reading this might have jumped to this article looking for a fight, because in M’erka guns are a controversial subject and why shouldn’t your real estate agent have a gun?

Real estate agents find themselves in precarious situations all of the time. They also might have to travel into neighborhoods that aren’t as safe as your typical bedroom communities. There are wayward dogs to contend with, random robberies, and the chance that a visitor to an open house has malicious thoughts. A real estate agent was killed in Maryland not too long ago and his killer stole his laptop and phone. He was killed for $2,000.00 in hardware by this shithead with the money on his face.

When you think about it this way, it’s no wonder that a real estate agents might feel the need to protect themselves.

The Statistics

Let’s look at some statistics: The National Association of Realtors released a report that states 25% of real estate agents who are male carry guns when on the job. Other real estate agents report that they carry other weapons, too, even if they don’t carry guns. Whether you are a fan of guns or not, you can certainly see why some Realtors feel the need to protect themselves.

The fact that 25% of male Realtors carry a gun is only the tip of the iceberg. The NAR report also says that more than half of all Realtors, both male and female, carry a weapon of some type to every showing. Here’s a brief synopsis:

  • Pepper Spray – 27% of female Realtors and 5% of male Realtors
  • Guns – 12% of female Realtors and 25% of male Realtors
  • Pocket Knife – 5% of female Realtors and 11% of male Realtors
  • Taser – 7% of female Realtors and 2% of male Realtors
  • Baton or Club – 3% of female Realtors and 3% of male Realtors
  • Noisemaker – 3% of female Realtors and 0% of male Realtors

Why are Realtors Afraid?

So, why are so many Realtors afraid enough to carry a weapon? First, there is the fact that approximately 3% of Realtors report being physically attacked when on the job in 2016. Though may that seem like a low number to some (too high for me), you have to understand that the overall rate in the country is about 2%, which means Realtors have a higher chance of being physically assaulted when compared with the average US citizen.

The reasons real estate agents feel the need to protect themselves is even more clear. In fact, many Realtors report that they are fearful of going to work each day. An astounding 44% of female Realtors told the NAR that they were worried about going to open houses in model homes and vacant lots.

Here’s some more stats:

  • 44% of female Realtors were afraid at some point in 2017 when on the job
  • 25% of male Realtors were afraid at some point in 2017 when on the job
  • 38% of all Realtors were afraid when in a small town
  • 35% of all Realtors were afraid when in a rural area
  • 39% of all Realtors were afraid when in an urban area
  • 40% of all Realtors were afraid when in a suburb

Knowing this, it’s certainly not surprising that a Realtor would carry a gun. HOWEVER, the problem with all this gun slinging is most people, regardless of their profession aren’t properly trained to “fight” with a gun. That means being trained to use a firearm under duress. I’m not talking about gun safety or target shooting, I’m talking about if you are being attacked, do you know how to respond with a gun if someone is coming after you? So to my Real Estate Agent friends and all others, seek out “Stress Response Training” and Firearm and get properly trained.

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.

Fake Realtor scams Children and their Parents

Ever peruse Craigslist for a new home? Nothing against Craigslist for doing that, but that’s where Coty Houston and David Yost happened to find a very alluring four-bed home for sale; looked perfect for their five young kids.

12DThen they all got squashed by a bomb: The man who sold it to them was not a licensed Realtor. Matthew Boros, however, used to be a real estate agent, but he never renewed his license. But this time, he had climbed through the house’s window (after placing an ad for it on Craigslist) and pretended to be the owner, with the plan of bilking the couple out of $5,000.

The couple was fooled by Boros’s charm. They had no idea that this kindly man, who had met their children several times, had been busted in the past for renting the same house out. They gave him a down payment and an additional $4,000, that day—in the name of expediting the sales transaction.

Yost remodeled houses for a living, so he had no problem starting the remodeling on this particular house, which definitely needed some repair and cleanup. He even replaced its electrical wiring.

Not long after, while he was working on the house, a man arrived asking why he was there. The vacant house had a real Realtor, who told Yost he was going to contact the police to report him for breaking and entering.

Next day, Yost found the house’s locks to be changed, his equipment still inside.

Houston visited the Second District Headquarters, armed with the payment and contract records from Boros. She and Yost then demanded their money back from Boros. Boros, though, told them he could prove with additional paperwork that the transaction was legal.

They met, and Boros refused to give a refund, but the police were waiting nearby and arrested the slug.

The couple is out $5,000, but may get their money back pending the judge’s decision. Boros pleaded not guilty. His lawyer claims to not have had sufficient time to study the case.

The ending is not all that bitter for the parents of five, however. They bought the house for real this time, with a reduced down payment.

Robert Siciliano CEO of, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

9 Ways to sell your House safely

Selling your house can spell a lot of trouble whether you do it yourself or hire a real estate agent. Agents have little training on safety and security and home owners even less so. Here are safety tips.3B

  1. Prior to a showing, get information on the potential buyer. Google their names to see what comes up. They can also complete a buyer’s questionnaire, seek one online, and you can chat with them on the phone.
  2. Find out if the buyer is bringing along young children. Kids get into everything and are hazard to themselves. See if arrangements can be made otherwise. If this is not possible, try to arrange to have a friend or family member keep an eye on the kids during the showing.
  3. Make sure the path to your front door is clear of any debris, yard equipment, toys, etc., that can be a tripping hazard. Also make sure that no rugs inside are bunched up, and that the floors and all the steps are clear of any objects that the buyer can trip over. Warn the buyer of any sharp edges, like that from cocktail tables, that they might walk into. Make sure there’s no moisture or slick areas on the floors.
  4. If you have a dog, keep it locked in a crate during the showing. Don’t wait for the buyer to come over to do this; put the dog in the crate ahead of time, since the buyer might arrive early.
  5. Show your property only during the daylight.
  6. Use the buddy system, bring a friend or relative over to assist. Arrange to have someone present in the home during the showing, and visible to the buyer, perhaps a friend in the living room reading.
  7. Make sure that the door is closed and locked once the buyer enters your home. But at the same time, be closest to the exit in case something goes wrong.
  8. If another family member is in the home during the showing, and especially if you don’t know where in the house they are at any given moment, knock on any closed doors before entering as you don’t want to startle the other resident by just opening up the door.
  9. Put away in a safe or completely remove all valuables. If you see someone steal something, do not confront them. Leave quickly (yes, leave your own house with someone still in it) and call the police.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.