Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 27, 2018

Cybercrime in real estate

In real estate, every transaction involves multiple persons and companies (buyers, sellers, Realtors, title companies and lenders, to name a few), making it an ideal target for cybercriminals. Opening a bad link, sending personal or financial information in an unencrypted email and installing malware posing as antivirus software can quickly cause a real estate deal to fall through.

A few years ago, I requested and received a new debit card from my bank. The same day, I received what appeared to be an email from the bank asking me to reset my password. You guessed it! I took the bait.

Within five minutes of clicking a link to reset my password, my personal account was drained to 73 cents. The cybercriminals withdrew all they could without closing the account so I wouldn’t be notified. I felt helpless. Fortunately, my bank replaced the money, which took about two weeks.

Here are a few tips and practical strategies to keep you from becoming the next cybercrime victim.

Update firewalls, usernames and passwords. Regularly check that you’re using the most up-to-date firewall and anti-virus technology. Updating passwords often is a standard line of defense against cybercrime, but when is the last time you updated a username? When updating one, make it a habit to update the other.

Word to the wise: If your password is “password” or “123456,” it might as well be your bank account number, as these are the most commonly used passwords.

Do not open suspicious emails: You’ve likely heard this tip before, but I included it because we can all can be tempted by a sly, well-written subject line. If you don’t know the sender or notice misspelled words and odd characters in the sender’s name or subject line, don’t let curiosity get the best of you.

Before opening, contact the sender via phone to confirm the email’s authenticity. Remember, it’s important to reach out to them via phone because their email could be hacked.

Do not send bank info via email: This includes banking details, routing numbers and PIN numbers. Regarding a real estate transaction, Realtors (and financial institutions) will almost never request or send sensitive information like this via email. If a circumstance arises in which such information must be sent via email, make sure the email is encrypted.

Damage control: If your email or any other account has been hacked, immediately change the compromised usernames and passwords, which are now vulnerable. Then, report the fraudulent activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigation via their Crime Complaint Center (www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams).

Also, contact friends, family, clients and others that might have been exposed to the attack. Realtors, report fraudulent activity to your state and local associations so they can take appropriate action.

Greater Chattanooga Realtors is “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” A regional organization with more than 2,000 members, Greater Chattanooga Realtors is one of some 1,300 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. Greater Chattanooga Realtors service Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia.

More information: www.gcar.net, 423 698-8001