You may not know it, but your email and web browsing habits may be inadvertently helping the “bad guys” take your personal information, or nonpublic private information (NPPI). Hackers are targeting the real estate industry by utilizing sophisticated techniques and technology to hack into existing email threads and redirect the communication, and far worse, the funds, elsewhere. For real estate agents and their clients, this could mean a big payday for hackers, as well as an enormous headache, and possibly legal action, for agents and their clients.
To protect you and your clients, Aaron M. Davis, CEO of Florida Agency Network (FAN), has compiled a list of actions agents should take to help prevent exposing themselves and their clients to a potential hacking situation.
- Make sure your title agent only sends encrypted wire instructions directly to the buyer and does not copy the real estate agent. (Many like to include the agent as a means of notification, but this puts the transaction at risk.)
- Advise your clients that they will only receive the wire instructions ONCE from your title company, and then call to confirm, at a phone number you know to be authentic, prior to sending a wire.
- Hackers use keyword searches when seeking out fraudulent misdirection opportunities. Stay away from using words in the subject of your emails like “WIRE”, “FUNDS”, and “FUNDING”, as these terms are what hackers are looking for.
- Change your email password(s) once per month.
- If you click on a suspicious email link or document, immediately change your password.
- Invest in antivirus software.
- Make sure you update your computer patches. Antivirus patches and cell phone updates should be applied immediately upon release, as most are released to address security flaws.
- Educate your clients on industry scams. Forward this link to clients for further information: https://www.ic3.gov/media/2016/160614.aspx
Hackers have infiltrated our industry and figured out how to create chaos. The most effective way to fight back is to educate yourself and partner with companies that monitor and secure their networks.
Through FAN’s partner, Premier Data Services, agencies within the Network stay up-to-date on compliance initiatives and policies. Each agency hosted by Premier Data Services is SOC 2 compliant, and is audited and verified by a third-party specialist organization, 360Advanced. FAN and its agencies gladly take on the responsibility of not only insuring the title to your home, but also in safeguarding your NPPI.