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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.

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.

REG FLAG.

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 IDTheftSecurity.com, 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 BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Real Estate Agent a Professional Burglar

Does the profession of real estate sales turn someone into a burglar, or, does a burglar one day realize, “Hey, I can make off like a bandit if I sell homes!”?

3HRay Glen Greene, 49, was a real estate agent in Cobb County, Georgia, who’d use his agent keycode to get into houses and steal valuables. He was sentenced to 20 years.

His sob story was that he hadn’t sold any homes in a year and pawned stolen jewelry to support himself. He even apologized to the victims who showed up at his trial.

If that’s not entertaining enough, there’s the case where a real estate agent, 60-year-old Stephen Brumme, stole women’s clothes from a house for sale, prior to a showing, while the occupants were out of town. The crime was caught on video. Police believe that such crimes occur more often than people realize.

How can you prevent crimes like these?

  • Install a video surveillance system. Though fake cameras are effective deterrents to break-ins once they’re spotted by the would-be thief, should a brazen thief bust in anyways, a fake camera won’t catch anything. A real camera at least will catch the crime on tape, which you’ll need for evidence.
  • Security cameras can also set off sounds and lighting, plus also alert the homeowner with a text message or phone call.
  • Technology (such as Dropcam) is available that allows you to view just what’s happening inside and outside your house, and in real time.
  • The investment in a surveillance system will go beyond protection and evidence. It will add value to your home. Some insurance plans even give discounts if your home has a good security system.

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