All right here we go, the topic no one wants to talk about yet it terrifies everyone. I’m talking about digital identity fraud. It’s a crime that’s difficult to detect, perpetrated by criminals who are rarely caught and it can be devastating to the victim. So what can we do? How can we defend ourselves from criminals looking to virtually dip into our pockets via our emails, bank accounts and other safe-havens?
The first thing is to understand the nature of the crime. Let’s start with how the horrid hackers enter our digital world.
Phishing – Have you ever gotten an urgent email from your bank, credit card or maybe even Netflix asking you to change your username and password? Red Flag! This is known as Phishing. It’s extremely commonplace and very convincing. Many times the email will have the exact logo and branding of the institution. The good news is that you will never get a legitimate email like. So if you get one you can assume it’s fraud. Don’t click on the link in the email! Instead go directly to the company website and make an inquiry. The bank or credit card company will be happy you did and so will you.
So let’s get into the dirty little details of how these hackers fraud their unsuspecting victims.
Wire Fraud – Ok, are you ready for this? Hackers are now burrowing their way into the email accounts of Realtors for the purpose of gaining access to the email accounts belonging to their clients. Why? So they can learn about all the pending Real Estate transactions and then pose as someone involved. Next step, the scammer might send the buyer false wiring instructions. The email looks legitimate because they have all the relevant information. BAM! Now they have your closing fees or even possibly your down payment. The perfect crime.
Perhaps the criminal targets a Realtor with a phishing email from a transaction management system. (Realtors love these). Well, they log in with their credentials at the fake site and are then directed to the real site. The victim of this scam has no idea they’ve been duped, but has now given access to all their client’s information. If the password is the same for their email the hackers can pose as the Realtor and deal directly with the client.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself and Your Clients
Now I’m sure you have the best of intentions like I do when it comes to protecting your client’s information. After all, we have an ethical and legal obligation to do so. So what’s the silver bullet? How do we guard against these merciless hackers in our technologically driven world?
First things first, we need to secure our systems, by using good habits and safe tools. Give yourself a digital security check up each year by understanding the information you collect, who has access to it, how it’s stored and when and how it’s destroyed. You don’t have to become a security expert to protect against digital invaders. Just a few low cost steps such as protecting your computer from Malware, can dramatically reduce the risk of getting hacked. But the best thing you can do is to discuss the problem with your client. Let them know what’s at stake, what you plan to do and what they should do as well to fight back against digital crimes. They will love you for it.