Channel 7 in Denver recently reported that real estate transactions have been targeted by email scams, commonly called “phishing” scams. We would like to thank our real estate partner and client Ray Brown of Milestone Real Estate for tipping us off to this article.
Scammers have gotten access to victim’s email accounts, created similar email accounts on other service providers, and emailed instructions to realtors, title agents and others, on where to wire funds.
This is a bit creepy, and has cost at least one person in Colorado $80,000. We now communicate extensively, and in some cases, exclusively, through email. Instilling email security practices to prevent these types of hacks is essential–in your small business and in your family life as well.
We would extend these recommendations to social media, as well:
- Change your passwords regularly
- Use complicated passwords that you can easily remember. In other words, take a phrase you are familiar with and switch numbers and special characters. Maybe it’s the zip code of the town you met your significant other with letters and numbers mixed up, like Col80SpgZ9!5. (Now don’t use that one!)
- Don’t use the same password for different accounts. This is tempting, but once a scammer accesses your social media site they will try to find your Gmail or Yahoo account using the same password. It’s like having two sets of keys for the office and for home.
- Get to know the people you are dealing with on important financial matters. If you personally know your realtor, your title agent, and your loan officer, as was the case in this news story, it might raise their antenna when something is not quite right.
- Precede an email on a transaction with a phone call–whether you are a realtor or a purchaser. Tell them you are going to send transfer instructions, and ask them to confirm receipt with a phone call.
- Check to see if your email service has antivirus installed on the email itself (this is different from just having antivirus on your computer–also make sure that’s updated too).
- Be very careful with links and attachments in an email. If you right click on the link it should show you the full address: make sure it matches what the email says it is supposed to be. We received a suspicious email that when we did this it showed the web address included the word “electronic_jihad” in it. You better believe that when into the deleted folder quickly.
- Clear out your deleted folder regularly.
- If you are a realtor or title agent, consider using a secure portal to share sensitive information with a client.
- Have security practices in place and written down, instruct your staff on how to handle emails dealing with financial transactions, and keep those procedures up to date with the latest threats that are out there.
If you ever have any questions or concerns on email security, or small business technology, that’s what we’re here for. If you ever need a great realtor—one that takes your privacy and security very seriously, that’s what Ray Brown is here for! You can reach Ray at 719-322-6030.