Security Central

Fraud isn't fun. No one likes it and everyone wants to avoid it. Unfortunately, it isn't going away.

We've created Security Central to give you a resource to learn more about fraud so you'll know how to identify it when you see it, what to do to prevent it and action to take if fraud is committed on your accounts.

The types of fraud that are most popular these days are:

  • Smishing
    An attempt to obtain personal and financial information by posing as a legitimate financial institution via text message.
  • Phishing
    An attempt to obtain personal and financial information through electronic communication by posing as a legitimate financial institution.
  • Vishing
    Unsolicited calls or automated voice messages requesting a return call to provide personal and financial information.

For more detailed information on fraud and how it takes place, start with our smishing article.

Tip of the Month: Real Estate Transaction Wire Scams

We've recently learned of fraud taking place in the form of wire transactions involved in real estate transactions. Scammers are hacking into real estate office email accounts and gleaning information on pending real estate transactions. Using this information, scammers, posing as the real estate agent or title company, send an email to buyers with new wire instructions or routing information and directing them to send the funds accordingly. Some buyers have fallen for the scam and we want to help prevent this from happening to our members.

One possible way of identifying this scam is any reference to a "SWIFT wire." This terminology means the destination for the funds is overseas. Another thing to be aware of is that these communications don't contain the usual telltale signs; e.g., misspellings, unusual wording or grammar, etc. And because the hacker has been monitoring the email communications, there will likely be accurate, detailed information about the real estate transaction. The emails may also seem to come from a legitimate email address because the hacker has successfully set up a false email account. This is only one type of online fraud taking place in the real estate world, so it's important to check in with your agent to see what protocols are in place.

Prevention

The best line of defense is to make sure that all parties involved in a real estate transaction implement security measures before a cyberattack occurs. Here are some things you as the buyer can do:

  • Ask your agent not to send wire transfer information - or any sensitive information for that matter - via email. Sensitive information includes banking information, routing numbers, PINs, etc. This may seem like common sense, but it still happens!
  • Ask your agent what his/her communication and email protocols are and confirm that sensitive information will not be sent via email.
  • If you are wiring funds, make sure you are contacted by the party wiring the funds. Also make sure the phone number of the wiring party is legitimate and review the wiring details to ensure everything is accurate. Don't rely on information sent in an unverified email - scammers will provide their own contact information and set up fake websites that look authentic to be successful in their fraud attempts.
  • If a situation arises in which there's no alternative but to send information about a transaction via email, make sure you and your agent use encrypted email.
  • Security experts often recommend "going with your gut." If an email or a telephone call ever seems suspicious, don't take action until the communication has been confirmed as legitimate. Better safe than sorry!
  • If you receive a suspicious email, do not open it. If you have already opened it, do not click on any links contained in the email. Do not open any attachments. Do not call any numbers listed in the email. Do not reply to the email.
  • It never hurts to ask your agent if the real estate firm has the latest firewall and anti-virus technologies.

Damage Control

If your agent notifies you that his/her email or other systems has been compromised, he/she is responsible for notifying you. If you learn this has happened, make sure the following action has been taken:

  • Your agent's company has reported any fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigations via their Internet Crime Complaint Center. More information is available on the FBI website.
  • Your agent's company has reported any fraudulent activity to their state or local REALTOR® association.

Being proactive with your agent to make sure your transactions and communications are concern will go a long way toward protecting you from fraud!

That's this month's tip – check back next month for our next tip.