How to Protect Yourself From Costly Real Estate Phishing Scams

real estate phishing scams

Phishing and email scams pose a real threat to real estate professionals. They are becoming more frequent and creative as hackers and scam artists expand their reach and skill levels.

It is critical to be aware of the types of fraudulent activity and how you can prevent yourself, your co-workers, and your clients from becoming victims. Here’s why: over the last three years, real estate phishing scams have cost consumers more than $5 billion.

Real Estate Phishing Scams You Need to Watch Out For

Real Estate Wire Transfer Phishing Fraud

Scammers are getting very skilled at sending emails that look like they are from legitimate real estate agencies, Realtors, and title insurance companies to steal consumers’ closing costs. Individual home buyers are receiving timely emails during the home buying process that instruct them to send money through a wire transfer directly to their accounts, often to offshore/international financial institutions.

The individuals are often obtaining the information from hacking into real estate professionals’ emails, and have been found even to solicit wire transfers to unique accounts for each transaction.

Text Message Threats From Scammers

The National Association of Realtors recently reported an issue involving threatening text messages. A broker had received a message from an individual who said they represented this prestigious national organization. The content of the text said they had received a complaint that the broker had sent racist emails and texts and was instructed to pay a large fine.

Misrepresentation of National Agencies

Beware of illegitimate professional agencies. Another real estate phishing scam was reported earlier this year where Realtors in Florida were being threatened with license suspension with an elaborate scam carried out by a fake Realtor group. Posing as the “Florida Board of Realtors” (which doesn’t exist) — the faux representatives demanded a $225 fee renewal fee.

It is critical to stay alert and be aware of these and other potentially compromising and costly threats.

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Protect Yourself by Following These Tips

  • Safeguard your passwords and change them often
  • Don’t conduct your business over public or unknown Wi-Fi networks
  • Make sure you have updated antivirus software
  • Use dual-factor authentication when possible (particularly for bank accounts and email)
  • Never click on attachments or links from unknown or suspicious parties

If you think your phone number, email, or other contact information may have been compromised due to a breach, contact your IT department (or consult a trusted IT specialist) right away to scan your systems. Also, if you do get targeted with one of these texting scams or phishing/spear phishing — report the incident to the FBI IC3 website.

Whether it is a via text or business email compromise (BCE) scams, real estate agents need to understand the implications of these types of threats. Real estate phishing scams are a multi-billion-dollar illegal business. Be vigilant, follow safety protocols with sensitive information, and share any related news with your network. And by all means — trust your instincts.

Work with a National Title Company that Takes Security Seriously

Bay National Title Company understands that security is of the utmost importance in a paperless environment. Follow best practices and work with trusted partners to mitigate risks for you and your clients.