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5 Tips to Avoid Cyber-Fraud

At the time this video was recorded, we were approaching the 2020 holiday season. The holidays are always, always the most dangerous time of the year for cyber fraud and with the added stress and financial burden many were experiencing at the end of 2020, it was predicted to be one of the most intensive years for cyber attacks. 

Knowing that we were approaching a perfect storm, we wanted to bring a couple of things to our viewers’ attention as well as give you all a few important reminders. This information will be helpful and true for many years to come, as cyber-fraud continues to grow each and every year.

Tip #1: Call to Verify The Wire Instructions
Never, under any circumstance, should a realtor or client respond to, forward or carry out instructions without first calling to verify the account number on the instructions with the title company or lawyer’s office.

It is industry standard right now with any experienced title company or lawyer’s office to send wiring instructions with the last four digits omitted. The client will then be instructed to call to get the remaining numbers. If for some reason you or your client receive wiring instructions with the last four digits included, it is absolutely reason to be alarmed and you should call the company that sent those to verify the account number anyway.

Tip #2: Do NOT Call the Number on the Wiring Instructions
It is extremely important that you do not call the number listed on the wiring instructions. We know that this sounds counterintuitive but if someone sends you a fraudulent set of wiring instructions, you can bet that they are also going to change the phone number as well. They know that you’re being instructed to call and they are smart enough to know that if they are going to get your money, they need to take their scam a step further.

Instead, find the number for the company on their website, on google, in a phone book, or from a prior email that you can verify is actually from the company you or your client have been speaking with.

Tip #3: Major Email Providers are Big Targets
If your client uses Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or any other major email provider, they are more likely to be targeted by fraudulent activity. It pays for hackers to target email accounts because most people often use their email + the same password across multiple platforms, giving these hackers access to more than just the email.

One of the major ways that hackers capture someone’s information is by sending them a fraudulent email disguised as a service they use, such as Netflix, Facebook, or even the email provider themselves. These emails will claim you have security issues or failed log ins and will provide a link for you to click on. All it takes is clicking on a fraudulent URL and, just like that, they’ve captured your log in information.

Tip #4: Double Check the Information in the Email
Part of the issue with fraudulent emails is that it can be nearly impossible to tell if they are fraudulent or not. As scammers get better, the more difficult it will be to differentiate between an authentic email and a fake one. We do have a few things you can check, though!

1. Hover over the sender’s name. It’s possible for a scammer to make it look like they are sending an email from someone you recognize (your title company, Netflix, or event your family members) but once you hover over the name, a dialogue box will pop up to show you the real email address.
2. Check to see if there is someone included on the reply that you don’t recognize. If a scammer is monitoring your emails, as they often do when they are trying to intercept wire instructions, they will often set it to auto reply or auto forward emails to their own email address. Check both the reply section of the sender AND your own sent messages if you suspect someone has hacked your email.

Tip #5: Use the Provided Secure Portal
If you are working with a title company or law office that is using a portal (such as the service we use, Qualia), it is imperative that you use it. We know that it is not convenient to log into them to receive messages or track the details of your transaction but we can not emphasize enough the importance for security purposes.

When you’re communicating through the portals that your providers have, it is much more difficult for outside sources to interfere in your transaction. This is both because they do not have access to these portals and because you and your client should know to expect all secure messages to come only through that portal, making it easier to identify falsified emails.

If you or or a client have been involved in a transaction where money has been hijacked, more likely than not, someone’s E&O insurance will cover it. It’s just a matter of going through the claim process and waiting for the money to come through. These things take time and while we know to expect that, it can still impact the timeline of a closing. Until the money is received, the transaction can’t close.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that these scams and hackers are going to go away. We are heading towards this as a new normal and all we can do is stay vigilant and be prepared.

If you have any questions about cyber fraud or anything else related to your transaction, even if you are not closing with us, you can reach out to us at 352-241-8629.

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