Our industry continues to talk frequently about wire fraud because it has become a HUGE scam across the country. In fact, the problem is growing and the losses are reaching unimaginable amounts.
Here are 8 easy ways you can help protect yourself or your clients, regardless of whether you use Vista Title & Escrow or another company to close your transaction. It’s a sad day when a seller falls for a simple email scam after closing on their home sale and loses all of their cash proceeds from the sale to go toward their purchase. The good news is that you can be aware of ways to help prevent your own email from getting hacked and a scammer bilking you (or your clients) from their hard-earned money.
- To help avoid any form of identity theft, when creating and publishing your email address – don’t use your birth year or your birthdate as part of the address. Examples: JohnDoe1952@gmail.com or JohnDoe0701@yahoo.com Why give the hacker your full name and birth year or date of birth?
- Change your password every 90 days, and use a fairly complex password that includes numbers, letters, and punctuation or other characters. Easier to remember but harder to hack might be a 3 for an e, a 1 for an I, etc. For example: P3ace0ut^ (instead of PeaceOut)
- If the city in which you live is the city in which you were born, don’t use that as a security question. It’s too easy to guess. Example: You live and work in Spokane and you were born in Spokane. What’s the first city the hacker will guess when the question is “What city were you born in?”
- Don’t use your wife/mother maiden name as a security question response if your wife/mother is on social media using their maiden name. Even if the profiles are not public, it’s often easy to figure out who they are using profile pictures. Example: If your mother’s maiden name is “Baker” and she is on Facebook as Jane Baker Doe and the hacker can see Jane Baker Doe as someone you are connected with, don’t use Baker as a response to a security question.
- When it comes to security questions, try Googling yourself to see what personal information can be discovered about you.
- Log yourself out of Facebook, and then go look at your own Facebook profile and see what a scammer can find out about you. Go to the posts that reveal something personal that you think a scammer can use and change them from “Public” to “Friends”.
- Agents: Instruct your clients repeatedly throughout the transaction that email fraud has become an enormous problem and to personally confirm ANY wire instructions with the closing office over the phone. In the busyness of moving, sometimes it takes a few reminders for information or warnings to stick in our minds.
- Be vigilant! Any time you get an email from another party to the transaction, look at it carefully! We recently had a hacker try to get information using @urnpquabank.com instead of @umpquabank.com in the email address.
Remember, many escrow companies carry insurance that may cover this type of electronic fraud, but it often only applies if the escrow company is at fault. If your email gets hacked and you fall for a scam, you (or your client) stand to lose it all!
Take the time to be intentional about preventing fraud, as the scammers out there are certainly being intentional about discovering susceptible victims.