A broker received a text message from an individual who claimed they represented the National Association of Realtors®. The text message claimed that NAR received a complaint about the broker, specifically that he sent racist emails and texts. The text indicated that the broker needed to pay a substantial fine and offered a link that would take him to the payment page. Thankfully, the broker questioned the text, thus saving himself from a current phishing scam running rampant through the real estate industry.
According to a public service announcement given by the FBI last May, a growing and disturbing trend in the real estate world is phishing scams. According to an FBI announcement title companies, last year reported phishing scams up by 480 percent. Over the past three years, real estate phishing scams have cost consumers and professionals more than $5 billion. So what is a phishing scam?
A phishing scam occurs when hackers break into email addresses associated with legitimate real estate agencies, real estate professionals and title insurance companies to steal consumers’ personal information, including money owned for closing on a home. Once they hack the email, they start tracking the person’s transactions. When the time is right, they send a message to your customer that looks like you sent it. Usually, this email will contain fraudulent wire transfer instructions which will result in your client losing his or her transferred money.
Tips for Protection:
- Warn your customers about phishing scams, particularly about wire instructions. Have your customers verify via telephone all wiring instructions.
- If you can, have your customers avoid wire transfers. Instead, suggest they use cashier’s checks/certified checks from banks. These tend to be more secure.
- Protect your email address by safeguarding passwords and changing them often.
- Avoid conducting business over unknown or public Wi-Fi networks.
- Turn on two-step authentication for your email; this adds another layer of security to your email account.
Recently, The National Association of Realtors had reported the targeting of real estate professionals via text message. Another phishing scam was reported in Florida earlier last year where Realtors were being threatened with a license suspension from a fake Realtor association. They posed as the “Florida Board of Realtors” (non-existent) and demanded a $225 renewal fee. These threats will always be prevalent in today’s world and will continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, but by following the tips above, you can begin protecting yourself now before it’s too late.