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Wire Fraud: What to Look for When You're Working with Clients

It’s no secret that more and more payments and transactions are being made online. Everything from electricity bills to home loans are being paid digitally, and while it’s incredibly efficient, it also leaves people susceptible to wire fraud.

As many ways as there are to scam people, there are technological advances to protect people as well. For a Realtor, it’s important to know the signs of hackers and how to best protect your clients from them. Read on to know what to look for when it comes to wire fraud, and how to help your clients feel secure during online transactions.

As recently as 2018, half of real estate firms were reporting a lack of preparedness in the event of being hacked. For an industry worth $33.6 trillion, not being prepared for digital fraud is a scary thought. It’s even scarier for your clients, whose money is at risk.

The reason there are so many scammers and hackers in the digital world is simple- the anonymity of it all makes it easier to get away with the crime. Without you ever even being made aware, a hacker can contact your client and have the money wired to them instead of to the lender or title company.

This happens through email spoofing, where an email is sent with a forged sender address, meaning your client will think the email is coming from you or their lender, when it’s really coming from a hacker. This is incredibly simple to do, because oftentimes people don’t check the email addresses or header to see if anything is incorrect. The small error could easily be written off as a typo.

Here are the three major types of spoofing:

  1. Spoofing via display name: A phishing attack where the display name of an email is changed so that the recipient believes it came from someone trustworthy.
  2. Spoofing via legitimate domains: This is when a hacker uses the domain of a business, company, or employee to impersonate them.
  3. Spoofing via lookalike domains: This is where the domain is altered slightly, but not enough that most people would be concerned.

All of these are a form of phishing, which means to send a fraudulent email to obtain someone’s identity or information.

Phishing is the most common wire fraud your clients will encounter, but there’s also something called a cloud attack, which is important for a Realtor to look out for at your firm. Many online criminals will try to “attack” a company’s cloud and steal data.

Now that you’re aware of the ways that criminals may commit wire fraud, let’s talk about the best ways to prevent it.

As far as cloud attacks go, most companies have security in place and have been enhancing measures as more people work remotely. Many companies also use two-factor authentications. This, along with encryption and managing passwords should be helpful in keeping data safe.

Honest Conversation

To help your clients feel secure in their online transactions and communications with you, the first thing we recommend is honest conversation.

  • Make sure your clients know exactly how you plan to communicate with them. Let them know exactly what email addresses you or your team will use, what phone numbers they may be called from, and who on the team may contact them.
  • Encourage your clients to ALWAYS reach out to you personally before doing anything in the event of a suspicious email or phone call.
  • Remind your clients to always triple check the domains and email addresses when it comes time for any financial or identity information to be exchanged.

Put it in Writing

Another way to help your clients feel secure is to make sure everything is on paper (or in email).

Send an email to your clients containing all the email addresses, phone numbers, and necessary information needed for how you may communicate. Have them keep this on hand so they can double check the domains being used.

Offer Another Option

If you have clients who have dealt with wire fraud before, or those you feel may be a bit more susceptible to falling for potential wire fraud, offer another option.

We know exchanges via email, etc. are unavoidable, but making sure your clients have another way to complete a transaction that makes them feel comfortable will not only help them feel at ease, but it will make you even more trustworthy.

Wire fraud is inevitable in the digital age we live in. That doesn’t mean it has to be a problem, though. Keeping your clients secure and their information safe is one of the most important parts of the job. At Churchill Mortgage, we pride ourselves on keeping security as a priority and peace of mind as a core value. We’re here for you and your clients, whenever you need us. That’s the Churchill way.

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