A Regrettable Emerging Trend in Real Estate

Bad guys. Guys that want to hack your smart home. Guys that want to cheat the closing company. Guys that want to steal your down payment. Guys that try to do all of that online.  You see, these days the bad guys never show their faces. They’re just at a computer somewhere trying to hack, cheat, and steal.

Now of course, online bad guys are nothing new. They’ve been around ever since the Internet was invented, but the unfortunate trend we’re seeing these days is that more and more of their online crime is being directed toward real estate. That’s why we are talking about it, because the more aware you are about what the bad guys are trying to do, the better protected you are against their criminal behavior.

So let’s talk about the bad guys, what they’re doing and how you can stop it before you’re affected. Let’s begin with hacking your smart home. Many of the really cool and really fun devices for our smart homes are apparently easy to hack. Hackers are targeting smart home devices to try and get into your network, and into your personal and financial data also. Two possible defenses here – use a special email address just for your smart home devices. So if they’re hacked the bad guys won’t have your primary email address. Also, you may want to have a separate network for your smart home devices. So if a criminal hacks into it they will not be in your main home network. They’ll be on a secondary network and they won’t be anywhere near your personal data.

Now the next thing the bad guys are doing is targeting the closing. We’ve heard that some title companies no longer accept certified checks, that’s right, certified checks. Because some people reportedly were photographing certified checks depositing them electronically into their bank account and then handing over that same check at closing. The solution, you wire the funds to the closing company. But that one requires a very careful approach. Because another bad guy real estate trend is that criminals are faking emails from your real estate agent, from the title company, or your lender. They’re telling buyers to wire their down payment to an account which turns out to be phony. They’ve stolen entire down payments. That money, it’s gone. This is grand theft real estate. Both the Department of Justice and the National Association of REALTORS have been getting the word out to make sure consumers know about it and to help them avoid being harmed by this cyber crime.

So here’s the best defense. Never rely on any email instructions to wire money. Never. If your agent or title company, or lender or anyone emails you with instructions on how to wire your down payment for the home you’re about to buy – delete it. Then call on the phone instead. Talk to your agent person to person. Talk to the title company person to person, or go to their office and meet with them face-to-face. Get the information on wiring your money directly from them. That way you can make the wire transfer with confidence.  But again, any instructions that come in an email, just delete it.

It’s unfortunate that we even have to mention fraud like this. But, fact is, it’s a trend in real estate. But, if enough people are aware of it and if enough people know how to stop it, then maybe stopping the bad guys before they do any harm will be the real trend of 2017.


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