How Real Estate Agents Can Mitigate Cyber Security Risks
Real Estate Cyber Security Tips – Beef Up Your Security as a Real Estate Agent and Reduce Security Risks
Think about how uneasy you got the last time you had to provide one piece of personal information online, whether it was your social security number or home address. Now think about your clients who have to provide a ton of their sensitive information when purchasing a house. As a real estate agent, you handle sensitive documents and identifying information for your clients all the time. Your clients place a lot of trust in you by sending you their personal information through email or text, and they expect their sensitive information to be protected from scammers.
To help mitigate real estate cyber security risks, TitlePlus is here to provide tips for real estate agents on how to beef up their online security measures and protect their clients’ data.
Your Clients Are at Risk for Cyber Attacks
You have access to financial data, credit checks, contracts, addresses, phone numbers, copies of checks, and more. In the wrong hands, that sensitive information can do a lot of damage to your client, not to mention your reputation. Unfortunately, a lot of scammers know you have access to that valuable information. Scammers target real estate agents and homebuyers in particular through email and text scams, and a lot of them get away with it.
How do they get away with it? They pinpoint the weakest link and strike, hanging you and your client out to dry. Whether that’s through a website, third party, email, or other access point, you need to put real estate cyber security measures in place to prevent it now.
Work with Vetted Professionals
There are a lot of parties involved in a home purchase, including the homebuyer, real estate agent, title company, loan officer, and the home inspector. That creates many different channels of communication and possible access points for scammers. When helping your client select different professionals to work with, make sure you are recommending vetted professionals who have proper security measures in place, including:
- A secure website
- Check to make sure every party’s website is secure by locating the little lockbox next to the URL. This means that personal information sent through the site is private.
- System security
- Basic system security like antivirus, firewalls, malware protection, antispam, and virus detection should be a standard.
- Encrypted email
- If any parties are going to be using email to communicate and send sensitive documents or email, ensure their emails are encrypted.
- Good procedures
- Ensure each party has procedures in place for how to send and receive identifying information securely.
Vetting professionals that your client will be working with will help keep their information secure and their purchase on track.
At TitlePlus, we take each party’s cyber security extremely seriously and follow strict procedures when dealing with sensitive information. We do not send personal information through email or text messages and our website and technology is protected with the proper security. We put our clients’ protection first.
Use Secure, Encrypted Email or Drop Boxes
Just as the other professionals involved in a home purchase need to use secure email, as a real estate agent, you should too. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) states that email is not designed to be secure and personally identifiable information is often leaked via email.
The FCC recommends that you consider using email encryption if you must use email to send and receive sensitive information. Email encryption converts data to an unreadable format to everyone who doesn’t have the encryption key. They also recommend “Secure Web Enabled Drop Boxes” to securely send data.
Using either of these options as a real estate agent can keep your clients’ information secure and out of scammer’s hands when sending information.
Inform Your Clients About Responsible Communication
Scammers have become very adept at soliciting money from homebuyers by impersonating real estate agents after getting basic personal information from an email or text. Scammers will typically send an email to your client telling your client that they need to wire money immediately to secure the home they are interested in. The scammers will link to an account that only they have access to. The homebuyers, in a panic and not wanting to lose the property they are interested in, respond to that urgency and wire money to the account. Unfortunately, the scammer is never heard from again, and your client is out a large sum of money.
It is important that you inform your clients on how you will communicate with them and ensure they are following proper responsible communication from their side too. Tell your clients that you will never ask for money through email or text and that you won’t ask for personal information either. Be sure to tell them that they shouldn’t send identifying information through email or text either because it is not secure. If they ever have a question on whether an email or text is sent from you, they should just give you a call!
Following responsible communication efforts yourself only works if your clients are also following them.
Consider Cyber Liability Insurance
As a real estate agent, your livelihood is on the line with each transaction. Leaked personal information can send your career into a downward spiral if a client were to sue after an incident. Acquiring cyber liability insurance can help cover financial costs that result from a data breach. This can help keep your business going in the event that a breach does occur.
Keep your clients safe and your reputation as a real estate agent pristine by following these real estate cyber security tips. For more information or to work with a vetted title insurance company, call TitlePlus today!