By NAR 2016 President Tom Salomone
One member of the National Association of REALTORS® recently told how a client was scammed by a “phishing scheme.” That’s when hackers lure unsuspecting consumers into giving up their hard-earned money.
In this case, criminals hacked the other agent’s account and sent a request to wire funds. The scammer even diverted the client’s responses from the broker’s inbox! The client wired upwards of $20,000 overseas right into the criminal’s hands.
This incident drove home to the REALTOR® that you should always tell your client you will never send an email asking them to wire funds. It also illustrates the wisdom of using the brokerage firms’ firewall by going through the company’s domain.
Phishing scams can be hard to recognize because criminals build their phony sites to look like real sites. About two years ago, Google did a study that showed phishing scams continue to work about 45 percent of the time.
According to experts, phishing attacks worldwide are happening more often than ever and hackers continue to go where the money is. When hackers pose as agents or title companies, their target is someone’s down payment on a house. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account can be wiped out within minutes!
To avoid being scammed by phishing schemes, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these tips:
- Never e-mail your financial information. E-mail is not considered secure.
- Check the security of the website. For any financial information you provide over the web, check that the site is secure. The URL should begin with https.
- Be careful what you click on. Don’t click a link in an e-mail to an organization’s site. Instead, look up the real URL, and type it in yourself.
- Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading any files from e-mails.
- Make sure your operating system, browser, and security software are up-to-date.
Buying a new home should be an exciting and happy event. To keep it that way, REALTORS® should remind their clients to be extra cautious about the dangers of sending financial information over email, downloading attachments or responding to email requests to wire money. When it comes to phishing scams, greater awareness of the threat is the best protection!