Jul 31, 2017
The purchase of property is a happy event for most people. Few things can compare to walking into your very own home for the first time. Unfortunately, the emerging world of cybercrime can turn that moment of joy into a nightmare of financial loss for buyers who have been swindled by hackers.
Yes, even the real estate industry has felt the sting of online thievery and all parties in a transaction need to understand that the risk is real. Moreover, these scammers aren’t just amateurs sending out blizzards of untargeted spam hoping to hook someone with a get-rich-quick scheme. Even careful, intelligent buyers can be taken in by last minute changes to deposit instructions sent from lookalike email accounts or links to web pages decorated with the same logos and text as your bank, realtor or other party. Anthony Lamacchia, a Massachusetts realtor, wrote in last month’s Boston Globe that he warns agents to guard against this type of increasingly sophisticated online fraudster but there are also things you can do to protect yourself. Tips from Lamacchia and other professionals include:
• Confirm any changes given in an email. If the instructions for making your down payment have suddenly changed, don’t just trust a note in your inbox before dumping thousands of dollars down the electronic rabbit hole. Call the sender and ask if the message is genuine.
• Don’t believe URLs. Thieves may adopt an email address that mimics your agent, loan officer or banker or may actually hack into their account. Just because the tag after the @ sign looks legit doesn’t mean it is.
• Stay safe. Avoid unsecured hotspots and stick with Wi-Fi networks that are password protected.
• Use multiple passwords. It may be easy for you to remember your dog’s name from third grade but it is also easy for a hacker to access your email, financial information and other parts of your personal life if you use the same master password to secure everything. In fact, it is best to avoid words altogether. Use random strings of numbers and letters instead and change them regularly.