Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties is proud to release the next installment of our Real Estate Redefined Series providing information, insights and inspiration to help you take your real estate business and life to the next level.
This edition of the Real Estate Redefined video series covers the growing threat of wire fraud and steps real estate professionals can take to protect their clients, customers and their reputation. Also view the video at https://ninjio.wistia.com/medias/7n6acpa770 to see a dramatization of how wire fraud can occur.
Hi Dan Forsman here. I have a very important topic to share with you today. The real estate industry is under attack from cyber criminals and the bad guys are having success in stealing significant amounts of money. Wire transfers for closings are one of the primary targets. The hackers are getting smarter and we must continue to stay ahead to protect our clients, customers and associates.
Here are the Top 5 Specific Actions we recommend:
- Number 1 – You must be aware and educated about Wired Funds Theft and Cyber Security in general. Your clients expect you to be the trusted guide and know the trends that impact the industry.
- Number 2 – You need to make your clients and customers aware of the risks. Communicate to them in the sales process, as soon as you get offers and before the closing. As an agent, you should never be involved in providing information about wiring instructions. Leave that up to the closing attorney.
- Number 3 – Secure access to your email and devices with strong passwords and consider multi-factor authentication.
- Number 4 – Use secure cloud-based solutions to store and manage your contract files. Never store contract files as attachments in email or use folders on your laptop or other devices.
- Number 5 – Do not click on links or attachments unless you are sure of the sender. Hackers typically access email accounts via phishing attacks. Hover over the link to make sure the URL destination is friendly and valid. If in doubt, you should contact your IT or Fraud Team.
There are also steps your company can take to help avoid problems and to inform consumers. Berkshire Hathaway has launched a comprehensive global program to enhance our systems, provide specialized resources, and increase awareness for cyber security. We recognize that most real estate companies do not have the resources to make these investments. That is why we are sharing some of our best practices for the good of the industry.
- We encourage our associates to use our company email platform. We provide enhanced security with our Berkshire Hathaway Office 365 platform that is not available on consumer email platforms. For example, we scan all emails to look for keywords related to wire fraud and review every day. Your company may also offer better options for using your company email.
- Our company includes a Wired Funds Disclaimer on every outgoing email sent from our company. We would be happy to share that language if you are interested.
- We added a Wired Funds Disclosure Form to be signed by our clients for every contract. This ensures every client is informed and made aware of the risks.
- We use a variety of tools to help educate our clients and customers. We have cyber security content in our listing and buyer presentations. We have included a link to a powerful video from our friends at Ninjio. Just watch this video (https://ninjio.wistia.com/medias/7n6acpa770) and imagine that was one of your clients!
- We recommend using Multi-Factor Authentication which is sometimes called Two-Step Authentication. With MFA, you can get a text code or app code every time someone logs into your email. You could quickly realize that someone else is accessing your email. In most of the scenarios where money has been stolen, MFA would have prevented the theft.
- We recommend using secure cloud-based systems to store and manage your documents and contacts. This is why we selected DocuSign as our strategic partner. They have the most secure eSignature and Transaction platform in the industry. We added ZipForm Plus to fully automate all our forms plus other company documents. We also added Spacio as our Paperless Open House solution. No more paper documents with prospect information that could lead to identity theft or worse.
- This month is the 10-year anniversary of our strategic relationship with Weissman PC. We are blessed to have a trusted partner who is proactive in addressing cyber security. Weissman provides the Closing Connect cloud-based solution that is based on the industry-leading SoftPro platform plus some custom enhancements.
- We use the PhishMe platform to send fake phishing campaigns to our employees and associates. This allows us to measure our readiness for different types of attacks. Recipients who fail the test, get follow up education to increase their awareness. Since we started this program, our readiness level has increased substantially.
- Finally, we are enhancing all our company networks. We are working closely with Cisco to implemented new hardware and firewalls with the latest security solutions.
Again, we understand that other real estate companies do not have the resources of Berkshire Hathaway. We hope this information is helpful as you consider your future options. Cyber threats are real and will continue to evolve at a faster pace. We are making this a top priority and so should you. The bad guys are not going to go away as long as they are successful in stealing significant amounts of money. By working together as an industry, we can help prevent these attacks and protect our clients, customers and associates. Thank you for watching this important video.