Phil Austin, Broker
Best Choice Real Estate

Real Estate Agent Security Tips

Real Estate Agents need to utilize Secure Email Accounts to operate their real estate business.

How Important is it for a Real Estate Agent to have a Secure Email Account for business communication and negotiating real estate transactions. It is a very important requirement to protect your clients from online fraud schemes. Most real estate agents do not have Cyber Liability Coverage while doing business in the Digital Real Estate World.

Because you are most likely an individual Independent Contractor Agent for the company you work for, you may or may not have insurance coverage. Make sure that the Company you work for has insurance coverage to protect YOU, in the event of an email security breech. Without Cyber Liability Insurance Coverage, you could be held personally responsible for any damages that your business clients sustain because of your lack of adequate security to protect your client's personal information. Security should be your number one priority.

I make it a point that the Agents that work at Best Choice have extended coverage because the legal costs for one of my agents to defend a legal claim could substantially cause a major personal financial impact to a non-employee (Independent Contractor) real estate agent.

A secure email system is most important for a real estate agent. It will reduce your exposure to a potential claim caused by a security breach of your email account. There have been claims in the Boston area against individual real estate agents for forwarding an email with a closing attorney's Wire Transfer information. When the email was intercepted, the account number could be changed by a Cyber Criminal. End result the money never reaches the Attorney's Escrow account to settle the transaction. Who will the Client blame?

Do You Have a WISP Plan?

Do you have a written security plan in place? This is also known as a WISP Plan also know as a Written Information Security Plan. A WISP PLAN details policies and procedures for ensuring confidential data is protected, how it is being protected, and who is ensuring it is protected. A WISP includes both administrative and technical safeguards that your organization has in place. You will need this to prove you took necessary precautions to protect your client. A secure email account will be part of the WISP. Send me an email anytime if you would like to learn more.

Unfortunately, Cyber attacks on real estate professionals are on the rise, particularly in the form of wire transfer fraud.

What is Wire Transfer Fraud?

Wire transfer fraud is when transaction funds are transferred into a fraudulent account. In most cases, wire instructions are being changed by someone posing to be with the real estate firm.

How is this occurring?

Criminals are dropping flash drives with software viruses outside of real estate offices hoping agents will plug them into their computers and use the free Flash Drive. Not smart... The infected computer can then be hacked and the emails monitored.

Criminals are also hacking email accounts THAT ARE NOT SECURE that belong to real estate firms, and or their agents, and then they can monitor their sales activity.  Then it is easy for the Cyber Criminal to will access to your account when you click on an attachment, which loads a virus onto your computer and potentially onto your office network or home computer. This can also happen if you visit the wrong website that does not have a current SECURITY CERTIFICATE and the virus is dropped on your computer just by visiting the unsecured website. Oh MY... now the problems begin and you may never recover from those problems!

The Cyber Criminal then can send false transfer instructions from that email account to steal funds. The real estate firm or their non-employee and independent agent can then become liable because they failed to protect their e-mail account. Lesson One: DON'T UTILIZE AN EMAIL ACCOUNT THAT IS NOT SECURE!

In one popular case, a hacker from another third world country gained access to a broker’s email account, monitored the sale of a property, and just prior to the close of the transaction, the Cyber Creep sent an email from the broker’s account advising of a wire instruction change. The money went to an offshore account and was never recovered. Don’t let this happen to you and be sure to take the necessary precautions. Independent Contractor Agents need to ask their Managing Broker if the company has Cyber Crime Coverage. Because over and over again these issues become big problems for real estate agents that are independent contractors, which by the way are 99.9% of the agents working in real estate.

Who is going to pay up for the damages?

Who is going to pay the Real Estate Agent's legal fees defending the claim?

Do you have coverage?

Best Choice Agents have coverage paid by the company because it is important to protect your hard working agents and their clients

Next week we will talk about Effective Tips for the Best Cyber Security Plan