In this episode, Dan Forsman warns agents and employees about the continuing threat of online criminals. He discusses steps that can be taken to help protect clients and customer as well as the reputation of our associates and company.
Hello, Dan Forsman here …
As we enter 2nd half of 2017, there is lots of anxiety in the real estate industry with phishing attacks, wire fraud theft and cyber security in general. The fraudsters are getting more active and better at stealing money.
You know, people tend to make mistakes when they are pressured and not aware. As Mr. Buffett says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” If you think something is wrong.. .it probably is.
A few weeks ago, we received another alert from Homeland Security about a worldwide ransomware attack. We notified our teams quickly so everyone would be on alert to avoid problems. Awareness is the first ISM and the key to protecting you and your clients. This is also why we proactively run phishing tests and measure the results to help educate our teams and implement more rigorous security where it is needed.
The biggest issue continues to be related to wire fraud theft. Hackers get into emails typically from a phishing attack. Then, they follow closely and mirror emails of transactions. They may now send emails to the client or even make a phone call with fraudulent wiring instructions. Millions of dollars have been stolen this year across the country. And this is happening to smart people so do not assume your client is aware. All fraudulent acts are designed to create confusion for the victim. People tend to act under pressure and not realize what they may be doing to themselves.
Our company has a very clear policy to prevent wire fraud.
First, we need to communicate to our prospects and clients that this is a significant risk.
Second, we need to clearly communicate that YOU, the agent will never send them wiring instructions. That will be handled by the closing firm. And this should be verified by calling them back at a verified and valid phone number that you confirm outside any emails you may receive.
Third, we need to recommunicate this when you get a pending contract and several times before closing – so it is top of mind.
Fourth, we need to be educated and aware of the latest techniques used by the fraudsters.
For example, a local company recently encountered a new tactic – a fake email from a closer with fraudulent instructions for wiring a deposit followed by a fake email from an agent urging the buyer to act on the instructions. In the email the hackers used email addresses that had one letter off in the email address. Bad guys could buy a domain that says email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. One letter may be missing or one letter may be added. It is so close that the recipients may not notice. These small details matter and we need to pay attention.
We continue to make significant investments in our company email system, company networks, our transaction management systems and our cyber security systems and processes. This problem will not go away as long as the bad guys are successful in stealing significant sums of money.
We will also continue to be proactive in communicating the most recent tactics used by the bad buys to protect our associates and clients. Thank you for watching this important video. We are now officially in the second half of 2017. Look for some exciting programs coming soon to help you finish strong and make this your best year ever!