By now you’ve probably heard of phishing, which describes attempts by cybercriminals to extract private, personal information from people and companies. Criminals use phishing emails to trick you into giving away information you’d otherwise keep confidential. When it comes to real estate transactions, the bad guys want details like the buyers’ and sellers’ social security numbers, passwords, and bank information so they can use them to steal identities, compromise accounts, and steal closing funds. They pretend to be lenders, mortgage brokers, realtors, title companies, and other real estate professionals, and their emails very often don’t look like anything like spam or fraud. The messages can look identical to what you’re used to receiving from companies and people you know, including Independence Title.
Cyber criminals can find any company’s logo from a website and paste it into a professional-looking email template. They can even spoof the company’s domain name by displaying one with slight, hard-to-notice differences like “independencetit1e.com” where the letter “l” is replaced with a numeral “1.” It’s very difficult to notice such a small difference just by quickly glancing at the email address. Even if the email address or domain isn’t spoofed, it can be easy to miss who sent the email when you receive a large number of emails every day.
If you receive an email you’re unsure about that seems to come from one of our employees, call us at a published number from our website rather than any number listed in the email, and check with us in person to make sure the email is genuine. Never click on any link or open any attachment in an email unless you’re sure it’s safe.
Wire fraud is usually the goal of criminals targeting real estate transactions. Please spend some time reading our full blog post on how to protect yourself and your clients from wire fraud attempts. We also highly recommend our realtor friends attend one of our newest continuing education courses called “Hacking Happens: Cyber Security 101” to learn the best methods of protecting themselves and their clients from cybercrime.