Phishing, hacking, electronic fraud are all ways people try to steal from others on the Internet. As searches and real estate transactions move more and more on the Internet, the chances of falling into the trap of cyber fraud are even higher.
“By now, most people have heard of the Nigerian prince scam or phishing emails asking for social security or banking information, but many people don’t know they need to watch out for potential scams when buying or selling their home,” said the ECAR president. Bonnie Nolte. “Cybercrimes have become more sophisticated over the years, and the people who commit them focus on situations where big money changes hands, making real estate transactions an ideal target.”
The National Association of Realtors® recently alerted its members and consumers to one example – posting fraud at the end of the home buying and selling process. Hackers break into the email accounts of consumers and real estate professionals in order to obtain detailed information about a real estate transaction. The hacker will then send an email posing as a buyer, seller, real estate agent, or anyone else involved in the closing process, and will let you know that there was a last-minute change and provide new connection instructions; the instructions send the funds to close directly to the hacker’s bank account.
While it might seem like there are hundreds of ways for a criminal to take advantage of a consumer on the Internet, there are just as many ways that consumers can protect themselves. Here are some tips from the Eastern CT Association of Realtors® to help home buyers and sellers recognize and avoid real estate scams:
Do not send confidential information by email
“Do not email banking information, your social security number, or anything else that can be used to identify you,” Nolte said. “If you absolutely need to send personal or confidential information by email, use only encrypted email.”
Don’t click on an unverified email address
“If you don’t recognize the name or email address of the sender, do not open the letter,” Nolte said. “And beware of any attachments or downloads from unknown email addresses; they can contain viruses or provide a hacker with the ability to gain access to your computer. “
Don’t use unsecured Wi-Fi
It may seem harmless to check your banking information using the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, but using an open connection can leave you vulnerable to hackers and scammers. Access to confidential information only on your home computer or on a secure network.
If you suspect fraud, report it to someone
“If you suspect fraud is taking place or is in the process, immediately contact all parties with whom the transaction was involved,” Nolte said. “Unfortunately, it is often impossible to do anything to recover the money stolen from the fraud, but you still have to report the incident to the FBI. Internet Crime Complaints Center or Federal Trade Commission… “
For more information on how to safely and securely buy or sell a home, contact the CT East Realtors Association at 860-892-2595 or visit Easternctrealtors.com talk to Realtor®.