Cybercriminals keep getting better at what they do, making it increasingly essential for real estate professionals to view data security as a serious threat that demands serious attention.
From compromised email accounts and weak passwords to unsecured networks and lost or stolen devices, there are many ways personal and client data can be compromised. Are you doing enough to reduce vulnerabilities?
The REALTOR® Code of Ethics explicitly acknowledges members’ obligation to preserve the confidentiality of personal information provided by clients in the course of any agency or non-agency relationship—an obligation that continues after the termination of business relationships.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends developing a data privacy program built upon five core principles:
1. Take stock.
Know what personal information is in your files and on your computers.
2. Scale down.
Only keep what you need for legitimate business purposes and to comply with the law.
3. Lock it.
Protect the information you keep.
4. Pitch it.
Safely dispose of what you no longer need.
5. Plan ahead.
Create a comprehensive data security plan and a data breach response plan.
In terms of sophistication, real estate wire fraud relies on one of the oldest tricks in a cybercriminal’s toolkit—a fake email message. The tactic, however, remains effective in convincing clients to transfer their closing funds to a hacker’s offshore account.
Preventing wire fraud starts with alerting your clients to the scam, so they understand the importance of confirming all wire transfer instructions via person-to-person phone calls with reliable sources.
It’s also essential to protect your email accounts. Even if your clients are savvy enough to spot a fake message from “you,” do you want to explain that your account was hacked? It’s embarrassing and can lead clients to legitimately question whether their confidential data is safe.
NAR offers many excellent ways to learn the ins and outs of maintaining data security and preventing wire fraud, including:
- ePRO® Certification Course
Features updated content with a two-pronged focus: protecting customers from a data breach and maximizing your online presence.
- Commitment to Excellence (C2EX)
Empowers REALTORS® to conduct their business at the highest standards of professionalism on multiple dimensions, including data privacy and security.
- NAR's Data Privacy & Security Resources
Legal updates, tools, additional educational resources, and more.
For additional details on these steps, review NAR's Data Security and Privacy Toolkit.