It’s no surprise that the real estate business is a target for thieves. Real estate leaves a lot of money and personal data at stake, and modern technology provides new opportunities for thieves to conduct their shady “business” and slip away without a trace. Fortunately, there are ways to combat and avoid hackers, thieves, and other types of criminals to prevent real estate identity theft.
Awareness and skepticism are your most important weapons. Many scammers intentionally seek out the most gullible and uninformed people as easy marks. Showing any sign of resistance or recognition of their tactics will send them running. But not all scammers are so easily swayed. Here are some tips for how to spot or prevent real estate identity theft.
Keep Your Information Safe
The first and simplest step to thwart identity thieves is to keep your vital information on lockdown. If your data is secure, criminals can’t get to it and won’t be able to steal identities. The old tips to monitor your postal mail and shred letters with key personal data are still good to follow but don’t overestimate the security of your email inboxes.
With so many web services tied to your email, a hacker that gains access to your email has a master key to every account you’ve ever owned. Revisit your password security and create stronger passwords for everything. And don’t use the same password for every account!
Real estate brokers, agents, and anyone else with access to sensitive client data should also revisit their own internal security policies. Sending client data between colleagues over unsecured email servers is unforgivable. Make use of a secure document-sharing service instead.
Do Your Own Due Diligence
Home sellers should be proactive when it comes to checking their own finances.
Check your credit regularly. In the US, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) per year. A good practice is to pull one every four months so that you have a year-round look at your credit history. Better yet, have your credit frozen at all three bureaus so that you’re notified of any attempts to access your credit.
You should also check the legal history of your home. In most places, deed transfers on a property are public records. You can look up the property’s current owner and lien history at your county’s property appraiser’s or tax assessor’s website. Why is this important? Identity thieves can take out new loans and equity lines of credit on your home by impersonating you. Many homeowners won’t notice this until they need to take out loans of their own or sell the property. The faster you notice a problem, the easier it will be to fix it.
Agents and brokers should also do their research before making a move on a property. Find out who the property owner is, and review any recent liens or quitclaim deeds on the property. You can also find this information at the property appraiser or tax assessor in your county. But if you’re using a service like ProspectNow, the information is easier to access. Also, be sure to find the owner of an LLC and reach out to them directly.
Be Wary Of Phishing Scams
Never send personal information through email. This is especially true in real estate transactions, even if the email appears to be from your agent or broker. It’s a common phishing technique to pose as someone trustworthy and ask to “confirm” certain personal details.
As mentioned above, a reputable agent or broker should never ask for your personal data over unsecured email. If you get an email asking for this, check the sender’s address. They will often use a generic domain like “name [at] gmail [dot] com” instead of a business email address. If you’re ever unsure of an email from your agent, it’s best to call the agency and ask if they sent it to you. Don’t use the phone number on the email. Call the number that’s on the agency’s website or stored in your phone instead. Better yet, visit the agency in person if you can.
Ignore Unsolicited Texts
You may have received at least one text by now from a strange number offering to buy your house. These texts are on the rise lately, with some people receiving several a day. While there isn’t a lot of coverage about this being a new scam tactic, it’s always best to be wary. This is especially true if the text gives you very few details, or if you don’t actually own the property they intend to buy.
A reputable agent or broker may use cold calling to reach out to you, but they will always be professional and respectful. They will want to present themselves as a reputable buyer and invite you to learn more about them. They will be transparent about their company and refer you to their website and references because they want to earn your trust and, ultimately, do legitimate business with you.
Agents, brokers, and investors who use ProspectNow will have access to dozens of email and postcard templates to make a promising first impression.
ProspectNow combines a comprehensive commercial and residential property database with a customer relationship management platform. Use ProspectNow to find data on millions of properties across the country, search for properties for sale, or even find properties that are expected to hit the market soon. The platform’s likely seller algorithm is a great way to find off-market properties before your competition. Find new properties and make contact in minutes, all from the same platform.
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