How to Spot a Scam

September 9, 2020

- By Sabrina Lapointe

There is no doubt that this year we have all experienced many firsts. With everything going on since the rise and continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s a lot to be aware of. One thing that may not necessarily be top of mind is looking out for scams. Many of you have probably had certain scams on your radar for some time now as a REALTOR®. These scams might include things such as wire fraud, email hacking, general cyber scams, impersonation scams, open house scams, among many other things.

So, how can we avoid being victims of these scams? Pay close attention to details and know what suspicious behaviors to look for. For example, to avoid wire fraud via email hack, be sure to check the email address very closely. With email phishing, the email itself will typically look very convincing. The company logo will likely be present, the name will look familiar, the email will be worded professionally, and so on. But keep a close eye out for any slight typo in the email or a change in the email address from the sender such as coming from @outlook instead of @gmail as it did initially. The second you note anything suspicious, steer clear of that email, and most importantly, make sure you don’t click on any links!

Scammers are becoming more and more creative with ways to steal your money and or personal details. It is important to stay alert and know what signs to look out for. Always keep your personal details secure. Keep all passwords and pin numbers in a safe place, be sure to choose your passwords wisely you want a good combination of letters and numbers, and make sure it isn’t something very obvious such as your birthdate or dog’s name.

Something else to be on the lookout for is false documents. There are a couple of different ways to identify this. Look for a generic rather than a personal greeting, closely read the email looking for grammar or spelling mistakes and phony logos.

As you all know, wire fraud can be very imminent in the real estate industry. When handling transactions involving large sums of money, it’s important to be very keen. Wire fraud is one of the fastest-growing cybercrimes in the U.S. About 11,300 people were victims of wire fraud in the real estate and rental sector in 2018 (a 17% increase over 2017), with losses of more than $150 million, according to FBI data. According to a report on NAR, these criminals will assume the identity of the title, real estate agent, or closing attorney and forge the person’s email and other details about the transaction. They will then send an email to the unknowing buyer and provide new wire instructions to the criminal’s bank account.

Encourage your clients to look closely and check with you if there is any doubt in their minds. If there is any suspicion in, for example, wiring instruction it’s important to listen to that doubt in your mind. Always err on the side of caution. Be careful and as always, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.