Crime has transformed. Theft that once required face-to-face deception can now be executed from a glowing screen halfway around the globe. Unfortunately, there are many ways for a real estate agent’s data to be compromised.
For example, a troubling wire fraud scam returned to prominence in 2015.1 According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the scheme works like this: a criminal hacks an agent’s email account to learn about an upcoming transaction, reaches out to the prospective buyer while pretending to be an employee of the real estate organization, and convinces the client that funds need to be sent to a new account. Once the wronged parties figure out what happened, the wired money is long gone.
Make no mistake—if any part of your real estate dealings takes place in the digital realm, you are a potential target.
Here are four digital safety protocols you can start taking today:
Protocol 1: Conduct Transactions Through Business Email Addresses
Though it may be tempting to consolidate personal and professional communications into one account, this opens you up to tremendous risk. Due to a large volume of users, free services like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and others are high on criminals’ hit lists.2 Smaller, firm-specific email addresses often fly under the radar because of this, making them a much safer alternative.
Protocol 2: Encrypt All Digital Activity
Encryption is the safest way to transmit digital information. Virtual private network (VPN) and email encryption software scrambles your data to everyone other than those you’ve given express access to. While encrypted data still isn’t 100% hack-proof, it takes a tremendous level of skill to decipher the scrambled contents—usually resulting in criminals choosing a less savvy target.2
Protocol 3: Train and Trust Employees
According to a recent survey conducted by Experian, 55% of respondents reported that their companies experienced a data breach due to a malicious or negligent employee.3 Personnel with access to sensitive information must be trustworthy and trained. Even the most honest worker can be duped into handing over private information if they’re caught in a clever phishing or hacking con. Invest in continuing education on digital safety, so everyone in your organization knows which red flags to watch for, and what steps to take in the event of an attempted cybercrime.
Protocol 4: Consider Cyber Liability Insurance
Cyber liability insurance is the smartest way to cover your bases in the event of data theft. A reliable plan can step in to cover costs associated with notifying relevant parties of the breach, defending against claims, monitoring compromised credit information to check for suspicious activity, and more. When sensitive information is stolen, a cyber liability policy will be one of your strongest allies.
If you handle any aspect of your career through online platforms, begin implementing these prevention strategies now to save yourself from an avalanche of stress later.
Information provided within this article is accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge, and is to be used for educational purposes only. It is not to be taken as professional legal counsel.
1 Edgerton, Jessica. “ALERT: Wire Fraudsters Targeting Real Estate Transactions.” National Association of REALTORS®. N.p., 19 May 2015. Web. 9 August 2016.
2 Nelson, Lee. “9 Ways to Keep Data Secure.” National Association of REALTORS®. N.p., August 2015. Web. 9 August 2016.
3 “Managing Insider Risk.” Experian. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 August 2016.