Realtors beware! How to protect against wire fraud phishing scams


February 6, 2018

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Welcome to part two of MyITpros’ two-part series in which we investigate wire fraud phishing scams targeting the realty industry. Wire fraud is a growing complaint among realtors and buyers, costing millions of dollars each year.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s safe to say Ben Franklin wasn’t talking about phishing scams when he penned this famous statement, but the underlying message still applies.

In part one of our series on realty fraud, we discussed wire phishing scams—specifically what they are and how they can impact your business. Today, we’ll offer a few tips from IT support professionals to stop scammers in their tracks by protecting your email account and educating clients. That’s the ounce, but we’ll also throw in a little cure by telling you what to do if you’re hacked.

Stop hacks by securing your email

Wire fraud scams almost always begin with an attack on your account in the form of an email that seems legit, but isn’t. The bad news is that you probably can’t stop these emails from coming to you, but the good news is that you can get better at spotting them and protecting your account. To enhance your email security, take the following precautions recommended by IT solutions providers:

  • Change your email password regularly.
  • Choose complex passwords that are difficult to guess (and if you’re using one of these terrible passwords, change it right now).
  • Don’t click on links or attachments directly from an email.
  • If an email looks suspicious—for instance, if the Netflix logo looks off or the address seems too long to be from Apple—follow your gut. You can always Google the contact information of the company in question to double-check.
  • Try not to discuss sensitive information over email.
  • Don’t access your email or conduct business over unsecure Wi-Fi, such as the public network at a coffee shop. If you like to work on the road, encrypt your connection using a personal VPN service.
  • Clean out your inbox frequently to delete digital footprints of a potential sale. An IT support provider can help you back up your email so you don’t lose anything.
  • Have an IT solutions provider help you install firewalls and updated antivirus software on your network and computer.
  • Work with title companies that follow these best practices for their own accounts.

Teach clients how to prevent fraud

Of course, implementing the safeguards outlined above only takes care of half the equation, leaving the other half—your clients—still vulnerable. Although buyers will ultimately do what they want, you can at least warn them of the dangers and make sure they understand how wire fraud scams work:

  • Explain the risk of a wire fraud transaction. Tell clients you’ll never ask them to send money without discussing this in person or on the phone first.
  • Ask clients to verify instructions independently before sending any wires, and tell them not to use phone numbers listed in emails to do so. Scammers have been known to provide fake contact details and answer calls themselves, posing as loan officers or title companies.
  • Add a wire fraud warning to your email signature. The National Association of Realtors has a great template you can use.

What to do if a client is hacked

Unfortunately, there’s no Teflon IT solution for phishing scams, which means you’ll always be slightly vulnerable no matter how careful you are. Even Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, isn’t immune: His wife reportedly banned him from online banking after he almost fell for a phishing attempt.

If you or a client do become a victim, you’ll need to act fast. Take the following actions right away:

  • Call any financial institutions involved in the transaction and ask them to stop the wire.
  • Contact your local police department.
  • Change your email password.
  • Get in touch with your lawyer to discuss the legal ramifications.
  • Contact other clients who may have been impacted so you can stop additional fraud.
  • Notify the FBI using its Internet Complaint Center.
  • Inform your local chapter of the National Association of Realtors.

Unfortunately, most victims won’t get their money back after a wire transfer goes through. That’s why many realtors engage IT support professionals to install highly technical security measures, including firewalls, antimalware and antivirus software, VPN, backups and other tools.

At MyITpros, our IT support providers have helped tons of realtors protect themselves and their businesses. Check out our security services offerings to learn more about your options and get the experts working today. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but your peace of mind is priceless!

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