March 12th, 2018

What to Know About Real Estate Cybercrime

As the rest of the world becomes more and more digital, so do threats to our identity, finances and personal information. Since real estate transactions are so significant that they involve all of the above, it is one of the moments in life when you are most vulnerable to cybercrime and fraud.

There are different kinds of fraud and in turn, different ways to avoid them. Some of the most common real estate fraud schemes, according to RIS Media’s House Call’s Cyber Series, include mortgage fraud, wire fraud and identity fraud. Below are ways to avoid each:

  • Mortgage fraud: Ask your REALTOR® to refer you to a reputable lender. Be honest and transparent when completing a loan application and do not include false information. Make sure to read and understand all mortgage documents before signing them or have a third party review them with you.
  • Wire fraud: A home is someone’s most expensive and significant asset in life. With that being said, real estate transactions involve huge sums of money being transferred to different accounts. This makes an individual vulnerable to wire fraud. Working with REALTORS® that you know and trust makes this process go more smoothly and safely. The agent usually has a list of preferred attorneys, lenders, etc. that they trust for the transaction.
  • Identity fraud: Be careful with social media. “Ninety-eight percent of stealing a person’s identity is just finding their date of birth and an image of them,” said Frank Abagnale, author and film subject of Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can”. Social media accounts are the easiest way for fraudsters to get this information. Don’t write too many checks, as the information on a check is all a scammer needs to wire money out of that account.

Some general rules of advice would be to never interact with unfamiliar email addresses. Real estate transactions rely heavily on email as the main form of communication which is another vulnerable point for scammers to try to take advantage. Spelling and grammatical errors can sometimes be ways to spot fraudulent emails as well. Make sure that each website you are putting information into is secure, the internet is full of cyber criminals searching the web for people’s personal information.

Real estate agents have a duty to their clients to warn and educate them on the prevalence of fraud during real estate transactions. Clients should be aware of their actions throughout every step of the home buying process and when they have questions or concerns, their agent should be able to advises them on safe practices. When in doubt, call a phone number you know to be legitimate and ask questions!

To understand more about the types of cyber crime you can be vulnerable to, check out this article by Norton. If we stay vigilant, we can prevent issues with identity.